Q&A / 

Edging With Granite Cobblestones

DEAR TIM: I have several gravel garden pathways and a gravel drive. They look swell but I am constantly battling vegetation that creeps into the gravel. Mud will also wash onto both paved surfaces during periods of heavy rain. I am sure you have solved a problem such as this. The trick in my case is to install an edging on a very limited budget. I would also prefer to use a material that is very earth friendly and possibly one that is recycled. Beth D., Worcester, MA

DEAR BETH: You have very strong mystic powers. I have solved the problem of migrating weeds for both past customers and my wife. There are any number of ways to do this some of which are more economical than others. But the solution I have used most often gets the highest amount of praise for both beauty, durability and creativity. As you might expect, this solution will be a bit pricey. But the edging I have in mind is one of the few materials that actually holds its value. In some instances, the materials I use actually are worth more money over time.

Visit any home center, garden center or landscaping supply business and you will see all sorts of garden edging products. Some of these products are metal, while others are wood or plastic. Perhaps the least expensive edging products are the thin plastic ones that have a rounded top. Thin edging material comes in handy if your path and drive are curved. These materials bend around very tight radius curves.

The metal, wood and plastic materials might satisfy your earth-friendly requirement as they could be made from recycled materials. Wood edging that comes from sustainable forests would be a very responsible choice.

But the material I prefer to use for garden edging is one that meets or exceeds your environmental concerns by a longshot. I have a soft spot for rock-hard stones. In particular, I prefer to use salvaged and recycled granite cobblestones for garden and driveway edging. The cobblestones I have used in the past often served as ballast in sailing ships. They were often unloaded while the ships were in port and used as pavement in many older city streets and roads. Modern redevelopment often unearths these stones and the demolition contractor sells them to landscape supply or stone-supply businesses.

You can also buy new granite cobblestones. White, pink and gray are perhaps the most common colors. You may find ones that have been tumbled to produce softer edges. Laborers in India, South America and other nations still shape thousands of cobblestones each day and these imports stream into the USA on a regular basis.

Installing the cobblestones is very easy. Typically the stones are only five inches thick. I like to have about 1.5 inches of stone show above the paved surface. This creates a formidable barrier for weeds, grass and mud. If you dig a four-inch deep trench you can install a thin base of coarse sand or small crushed gravel under the stones. This material helps you position the cobblestones as they are very rarely the exact same height. It is very important to keep the top of the cobblestones in the same plane so the edging appears uniform.

Do not install the cobblestones one at a time. I find it is best to dig the narrow trench and then position perhaps 15 or 20 stones in a line or around a curve. Use a short piece of 2x4 to help you maintain the finished height above the gravel surface. After you have the stones positioned, stand back and look at the curve or the line. If it looks good to your eye, then add small crushed gravel on the side that contacts the gravel path or driveway. Soil can be used to backfill the other side of the cobblestones. Use coarse sand or very small gravel chips to fill any spaces or cracks where one cobblestone touches another. This gravel helps lock the stones together.

If the granite cobblestones are too expensive for you, you have two choices: You can install them a few at a time as you can afford them or you can use a more affordable stone product. There is a distinct advantage when you select recycled granite cobblestones. There is only a finite amount of these worn cobblestones left on the planet's face. People are noticing the beauty and unique character of these stones. As such, the price is actually going up each year for these prized works of Mother Nature. I can tell you for a fact that my wife Kathy thoroughly enjoys the granite cobblestones that tame the grass and plants along our gravel driveway.

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