How to Care for Landscaping Rocks and Pavers
Living at the shore usually means trading high-maintenance yards and lawns for seemingly carefree stones or pavers. However, don’t throw out your work gloves just yet; stone landscaping requires a bit of maintenance, too.
5 Steps for Maintaining Stone Areas
Leaves, weeds and bald spots can ruin the appearance of stone paths, yards and driveways. But if you take time to rake your stones, you can help prevent weeds and leaf buildup. To do this, landscaping experts recommend that you take the following steps:
- First, rake the gravel with a flexible leaf rake, which has rounded tips so they don’t spear the leaves. It’s best to rake the leaves when they are dry and light. Pull leaves off the stones and collect them into a pile for disposal. It’s OK if some small leaves are left behind since these should decompose quickly. If the rocks in your landscape are larger, a leaf blower may work better than raking. Just make sure you wear goggles and are aware of where you’re aiming. If your area is smaller, it may be easier to remove leaves and other debris by hand.
- Weeds can uproot stone or rock, which can create tripping hazards. They will also spread if left to go to seed. If you used a weed barrier under your stone, weeds should be a minimal problem. Weeds that penetrate through the fabric or plastic weed-blocking underlayment beneath the stone can quickly ruin it, leaving the area prone to further weed problems. However, if there’s no weed barrier under your stone, weeds are going to grow more regularly. To rid your yard of weeds, spray them directly with a ready-to-use, full-spectrum herbicide, such as one containing glyphosate. Once the weeds die and become brittle, break the weed stems off at stone level. You’ll want to avoid pulling the weeds by the roots because uprooting may further tear the barrier.
- Then using a gravel rake, which has a flat row of tines that curve under, begin raking the stones. Work in rows, pulling the gravel rake across the stone in one direction for a smooth, uniform appearance. Avoid pulling the stone out of the area and onto nearby lawn and garden areas. If you’re raking narrow paths, follow the direction of the path as you work. For larger areas, alternate directions each time you rake to help keep the stone level over the area.
- Over time and especially at the end of winter, a stone yard can develop dips that allow water and debris to accumulate. Check raked stone for bald spots where the stone layer isn’t as deep or where the underlayment is showing. Instead of immediately adding more stone to even out the surface, take a look beneath the stone to find out what’s causing the dip. Washed-out sand or base stone will continue to erode unless you fix the problem. Fixing it may just mean adding a few shovelfuls of sand to the low area to shore it up, then adding more stone on top.
- Once all dips are fixed, you shouldn’t need to rake your stones for at least six months. High-traffic driveways may need more frequent raking to redistribute stone and even out ruts from tires.
7 Tips for Keep Pavers Looking Like New
- The first step to keeping your paver patio clean is to sweep it regularly. Dirt and dust can easily build up, creating a buildup of debris that can break down your pavers. A quick sweep once a week will keep the space tidy and presentable.
- Deep clean pavers every spring with a coarse-bristle “stable” broom or deck brush and paver cleaner. Before applying any paver cleaning solution, test it in a small, inconspicuous area first to be sure you get the desired results. Follow the directions on the label carefully, and always rinse the solution off thoroughly after use. Be careful when cleaning pavers with a power washer; the force of the spray can expose the aggregate stone under the paver’s surface.
- Target stains with a deck brush and a mild detergent to remove the stains. In the event of an oil spill or if car residue drips on your pavers, remove it promptly with granular oil absorbent. Spills should be soaked up, not rubbed. Rubbing will drive the stain deeper into the concrete.
- If left unaddressed, weeds can push pavers apart. Apply a granular weed preventive between pavers (in the “joints”) periodically. You can also use a natural solution like vinegar and water to kill weeds. This type of solution won’t harm pets or people.
- When used properly, de-icing products shouldn’t damage pavers. However, using them may accelerate surface wear on some paver styles, so use them in moderation.
- If your patio is exposed to the elements, you should consider using a paver sealer to prevent fading. You should use a sealer as soon as you have your pavers installed. Then, to keep them looking their best, plan to clean and reseal pavers every three to five years. Don’t apply sealer more than once in three years because too many applications will create a film on the surface, which may discolor in sunlight.
- Sand is commonly used to hold the bricks together on a patio. Maintaining the joints between paving stones is very important. Keep these joints topped off with jointing sand to prevent the sand-bedding layer below from deteriorating, causing the pavers to shift. Weeds seem to favor certain types of sand more than others, but they don’t like polymeric sand.