Landscaping With Crushed Rock & Gravel

Published on: April 05, 2023

Are You Tired of Watering the Grass?

Conservation is on everyone’s mind these days and for good reason. Today’s energy and water bills can make or break a budget. You want to upgrade your outdoor areas, but you’re worried about trading your BBQ pit for a money pit. We get it! But don’t worry, we have you (and your ground) covered. If you’re ready to learn the benefits of introducing crushed stone and gravel into your landscape design, we’ll show you how a beautiful, water-wise landscape is easier than ever to create.


What are Crushed Rock & Gravel?

While crushed rock and gravel are often used interchangeably, there are some notable differences. Gravel traditionally refers to the naturally occurring rubble that was tumbled to a rounded edge in present-day or ancient riverbeds. Crushed rock, as the name suggests, is produced by crushing larger rocks into smaller rocks which are then screened for consistent sizing.

Today, both crushed rock and gravel are primarily sourced from quarries with a small amount of gravel being collected from riverbeds, streams, and other geological formations. Gravel and crushed rock are available in bagged or bulk quantities and range from 1/8” – 4” in size.

Dark crushed rock installed around garden in back yard

The Differences Between Crushed Rock & Other Landscape Rock

Crushed rock and gravel differ in both appearance and use when compared to other types of landscape rock. Here’s a short list of some of these differences:


Decomposed Granite and Sand

The most noticeable difference between decomposed granite (DG) and sand is the size. Mined from natural sources like rivers, beaches, and dunes, sand is generally used to aerate soil and as a base or foundation for larger base rock. DG is naturally formed by weathered granite that decomposes into smaller pieces of crumbled rock. Like gravel, DG works great as ground cover and garden pathways.


Rubble and Rip Rap

When compared to standard crushed rock and gravel, rubble, and rip rap is larger and less consistent in size. These crushed stones are primarily used as fill material and to create a divider between landscape features. This larger rock is also great as a border for your garden or as a base for a dry riverbed.


River Rock and Pebble

Like gravel, river rock and pebble commonly originate from a natural water source. However, river rock and pebble have a naturally smooth and rounded appearance compared to the more irregular and jagged edges of crushed rock and gravel. This smooth appearance is caused by continuous interaction between the rock and water currents.

Crushed Rock Comparison Graphic

Popular Crushed Stone & Gravel Landscaping Projects

If you are looking to have an outdoor area that’s not only attractive but practical, then there are a number of simple DIY projects to instantly increase curb appeal and the value of your home!

Build a Rock Pathway With Crushed Rock and Gravel

Did you know gravel is the most economical method of paving? With the proper maintenance, a gravel driveway can last at least as long as an asphalt one, while costing much less.

In smaller projects like garden pathways, crushed rock and gravel are even easier to maintain and help to aesthetically define your outdoor living space. Outlining the path with header boards will keep the rocks in place and weed barrier fabric will discourage weeds and other plants.

Crushed rock installed in backyard garden pathway

Crushed rock and gravel installed with water feature in backyard

Create Crushed Rock Water Features

Generally speaking, most stones look more beautiful when wet. Just adding a layer of crushed stone to the bottom of a fountain will not only liven it up, but it can also reduce the splashback and noise of the fountain!

For more information about creating pathways, water features, and other projects, visit 5 Landscape Rock Projects to Transform Your Yard.

Install a Base for a Flowerbed and Planter Area

There are several benefits to using crushed rock and gravel in your garden. For starters, it’s a great way to control weed growth and prevent topsoil erosion in wetter climates. Additionally, using rock in your garden can save you a lot of money! Compared to wood mulch, which needs to be replaced every couple of years, crushed rock will last indefinitely.

Rock is much more durable than mulches, it requires very little maintenance and will keep its appearance year after year.

Landscape gravel installed in planter garden bed with cacti

Crushed rock and gravel border installed along stone stairway

Create Crushed Rock Borders and Dividers

Heavy rain and wind can quickly become a problem in any garden or outdoor area. Rock borders and dividers are very effective for keeping your landscaping materials on your property while preventing them from mixing with other landscape features in your yard.

Installing rock borders and dividers is a great starter project for those who want to incorporate landscape rock into their yards.

Choosing Sizes and Colors for Crushed Rock & Gravel Landscaping

Southwest Boulder & Stone has a huge selection of crushed rock and gravel sizes and colors to choose from, but don’t worry, that’s a good thing! Here are a few helpful tips for choosing the perfect landscape rock for your yard.

How to Choose the Right Color of Landscape Rock

When in doubt, go neutral! Mirror the natural colors of your outdoor space with neutral, earth-tone colors. This will help draw more attention to other landscape features in your yard like stone fountains or boulders.

If you want your crushed rock and gravel to stand out, consider choosing contrasting colors. Pairing a lighter crushed rock like our California Gold with a darker color like Southwest Brown can really make your design pop!

Crushed rock and gravel displayed in a variety of colors and sizes

Crushed Rock Size Comparison Graphic

How to Choose the Right Size of Crushed Rock & Gravel

Crushed rock and gravel range in size from ⅛”- 4”. To choose the perfect size, you need to know what purpose the rock will serve. Deciding whether adding rock to your yard is purely for aesthetics or for more practical use will help you determine the right size.

For example, in high-traffic areas like garden pathways or driveways, we recommend smaller sizes of crushed rock, ideally under an inch. For use as a flower bed or plant base, the size of your gravel isn’t as important. You can rely more on what size is most visually appealing to you.


As always, our landscape rock experts are standing by ready to help you choose the perfect rock for your next project!

How to Install Crushed Rock & Gravel for Your Landscaping Project

Landscaping with crushed rock and gravel might seem overwhelming at first, but we’ll show you some easy recommendations to help you transform your yard in no time!

Design & Layout

After deciding on where you’d like to install your gravel, paint out the lines of your installation area with brightly colored construction paint.

Perimeter Edging

Set the perimeter of your installation area with steel, wood, or bender board, and fasten it with stakes.

Excavate & Compact

Using a spade shovel, remove the top 4” of soil below the top of your edging material and compact the area with a hand tamper or vibratory plate.

Coverage Calculator

Use our helpful Coverage Calculator to determine how much material you’ll need for the project.

Add a Rock Subbase (For Pathway Installation)

Line the area with 2” of construction-grade crushed rock and compact it with a hand tamper.

Lay Down Landscape Fabric

Roll out a layer of weed barrier over the compacted base or soil and fasten with landscape fabric staples.

Fill The Area with Crushed Rock or Gravel

Pour out enough material to fill the remaining 2” of space below your edging material and rake out evenly.

Tools Needed

  • Construction paint
  • Steel, wood, or bender board edging material
  • Square shovel
  • Metal rake
  • Hand tamper
  • Weed barrier fabric and staples
  • Utility knife
  • Wheelbarrow

Get Ready to Transform Your Yard With Crushed Rock & Gravel

The benefits of landscaping with crushed rock and gravel are endless. It’s one of the most versatile, durable, and cost-effective materials you can add to your landscape design.

In addition to the instant curb appeal you’ll get from this beautiful stone, you’ll have the added peace of mind knowing that this virtually maintenance-free addition to your yard will last for years to come!

Get Ready to Transform Your Yard With Crushed Rock & Gravel

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