We are often asked to quote customers who are looking to create shingle gardens. And whilst it might sound like the perfect, maintenance free solution, or an easy way to create additional parking at the front of a property, it’s not as simple as just ripping up the lawn and throwing a load of stones down.
In this article we take a look at the pros and cons of a shingle garden as well as things to think about when you’re planning your shingle garden.
Like any garden project, success starts in the right preparation for what’s to come later.
If the area is currently planted, or host to weeds, you need to spend time removing all the existing vegetation and digging the ground over ready for any planting you will be doing after the shingle is laid. This is also a good time to think about soil enrichment as you won’t be able to dig anything in once the area is covered.
With the area clear of vegetation, you need to create a sound base.
Create a border to house your chosen edging - this could be brick, sleepers, shuttering - it’s your choice. Take time to level the ground so that the shingle coverage is even across the area. If drainage is an issue, you may need to add some sand. Give some thought to any features you may want to add to the space, for example lighting or a water feature. Similar to adding soil enrichment, laying cables or pipework now will save you undoing all your hard work later.
Finally, when the area is prepared, it’s time to lay a good quality weed membrane - unless you want a self seeding area but we’ll talk more about that later.
Taking shortcuts in preparing the base means the membrane will show, looking really ugly, and the shingle may spill onto surrounding paths.
Shingle comes in all shapes, colours and sizes, and picking the right one for your planned use of the area will make a big difference to the end result.
If you choose to use pea shingle it’s likely to get wedged in your shoes which means that you will tread it into the house, potentially damaging carpets and flooring. In my opinion, 10mm pea shingle can create the appearance of cat litter and, if the area is quite large, it can start to look like a beach. Larger stones can be uncomfortable to walk on. I find that 20mm shingle is a good size stone to consider. It doesn’t move around much and sits quite happily in place.
Similarly, think about the colour of the stone you decide to use. Do you want to create contrast or are you looking for a softer, blended appearance?
As alluded to earlier, what many people forget to consider is that birds will drop seeds and your plants may also self seed. This causes plants and weeds to grow in the shingle which can soon start to look scruffy and unsightly. Often the exact opposite of your goals when you decided to lay shingle!
You might also want to consider investing in a leaf blower to help you keep the shingle today and prevent leaves breaking down to make compost in the shingle. This in turn creates a lovely base for weeds to use!
With a good base, weed membrane and edging you have a good start point for some clever planting to detract the eye for the expanse of stones.
Shingle gardens are often great for drought loving plants and those of a Mediterranean style that will attract scores of pollinators and other wildlife. The colour of the stone you use can be effective in showcasing the plants, or harmonising with decking, paving or other garden features.
This very much depends on your DIY skill and your desired end result. If you are looking for a relatively inexpensive, low maintenance solution and opt to do it yourself, remember to take time to lay a decent base and prepare the area well.
However, if you have a vision for a particular style and would like to ensure longevity along with a pleasing garden ask for advice. We can help with the design of the area as well as recommending plants and, importantly, their after-care.
To summarise, here are some pros and cons of a shingle garden.
Can be relatively inexpensive
Can be low maintenance
It’s a natural solution that can harmonise or contrast depending on your vision
It’s a great solution for shady areas where grass doesn’t thrive
It can be used to create modern or traditional spaces
It can be cooler underfoot than paving in the hotter months
Shingle has a tendency to migrate to other parts of the garden
Self seeding can be problematic and unsightly
It’s tricky to clean - you can’t sweep it!
You need to create a firm and level sub-base
The shingle will need topping up from time to time
It’s often uncomfortable to walk on with bare feet
Some shingles attract cats looking for a convenient loo!
If you need help planning your garden and are considering different design solutions, get in touch with Claire today, simply call 023 8063 2600 or email email@example.com