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i have a gravel border running right around the whole lawn, separated by edging. this gravel is about an inch or so thick, has landscape fabric underneath and is about 50cm wide.

the fabric in a lot of places is coming up, ripped, is not stopping weeds coming through and just looks a bit messy.

thankfully, nothing is planted within the gravel border ... but i do intend to plant all around it. for this reason, im wondering whether i should remove the gravel, remove the fabric, improve the soil (i have heavy clay, very acidic), cover with a good 3 inches or so of bark, then get planting?

i know im going to have a job and a half convincing wife about the bark, she hates it and loves pebbles, slate chips etc etc but from my little understanding these are both expensive to buy compared to bark, and also offer no nutritional value to the soil (and if anything, provides a NEGATIVE effect on the soil) ??



As long as the gravel or bark is spread on a weed suppressant membrane neither is any good to the soil and neither will harm it.   You can scrape back the gravel pebbles, flatten the membrane and repair it as needed then just put the gravel vback witha  few pebbles and larger stones to break it up and add texture.  I wouldn't recommend replacing the gravel with bark as it can be blwon around in strong winds, can be pecked and trewn about by birds looking for insects and also allows weeds to self sow quite easily.

For the soil you want to plant up, yes, add well rotted compost or manure, some fine grit if the soil is heavy and fork it over thoroughly removing any perennia weeds and tehir roots.   Plant up and water well.  Keep new plants watered till well established.   Lots of plants love acidic soil and clay can be very fertile once its structure is improved with houmous and grit so you should be able to find a wide range of plants to suit. 


thanks. with the bark, i would intend to remove the weed membrane entirely and NOT repair it/replace it. i'd only put the membrane down if putting the gravel back on or replacing with some other solid mulch/stones. i was under the impression bark would rot down into the underlying soil over time and thus would be much better to plant on than planting within gravel and surrounded by membrane?

Hi dj some time ago Monty went to a garden that had the most wonderful veg ,,one of the best he had seen he said, the chap used bark chips which he riddled once a year ,what went through the riddle he used as compost, what was left he put back onto the path and added new on top and so on,he only used Comfry and nettle tea he said he never buys any plant food at all yet his produce was just superb, on our allotment we are now lucky to get free bark from local tree workers, and most are converting to it, as we are,good luck

Bark does rot down over time but then needs replacing so you have to factor that in as a continuing cost and chore.    Some people also worry about the rotting of wood depleting nitrogen from the soil but I think the levels would be negligible.  A far better soil improver is well rotted manure or garden compost or bought in compost.

I understood you would be planting beyond the gravelled area but if you're planning to remove all the membrane and plant that area I would just remove all the gravel and put it somewhere else. as without a membrane it will work its way into the soil and get lost and look naff then be expensive to replace.  

There isn't really a short cut to good soil preparation but it does pay dividends and your plants, if well chosen, will cover the soil and supress weeds and look beautiful.  You can use annuals as fillers while they get established.


I wouldn't use any membrane there at all.

That gravel?  Is it limestone gravel? If so it is alkaline.  I would remove gravel totally and dig over the soil incorporating some compost, manure, etc and plant up with a structure of acid loving plants.  Azaleas, pieris, andromeda, Camelias, dwarf rhododendrons, etc.  When I say "structure" I mean a framework to then infill with annuals, perennials, etc. using a mixture of spikey grasses, foliage plants like hostas, Heucheras, and annuals for summer colour.  

I dont like bark as a mulch.  It blows around and it harbours pests

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