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     Marijke & Piet.

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Front-garden gravel-area restoration

Box-roots in the gravel area

At the time we initially constructed our garden we used a couple of hundred square meters of weed control fabric (barrier cloth) as a basis for the gravel area's, in particular the Ginshanada.

When that was almost finished we walked into just a minor shortage of barrier cloth, to finish the gravel area to the left of the front entrance, beside the drive, required for the Hõrai-jima, "symbol of the islands of the Blest", in the front garden compartment.

As we had plenty of plastic bags at our disposal and this was just a small area, it was decided to use these bags to cover the ground and separate the soil from the gravel.

Although that is now some 15 years ago, already after 5 years we found out that this had not been a good idea at all. We did not have a problem with rain water drainage.
Roots growing through the gravel area barrier cloth

However after this time the plastic begun to decay, roots came trough and even ants managed to use the holes to get in and out. On the edges of the area the soil, with or without help of roots and ants, also saw a change to come trough.

One result of this was that more and more soil, i.e. sand and clay mixed with the gravel. This mix then also offered an opportunity for mosses and weeds to grow at random across the whole area .

Lessons learned:

Do not compromise the quality of materials needed for a good infrastructure.

Removal of the polluted and dirty soil is a hell of a job that consumes a lot of time. And then, we do not just want to dispose of the dirty gravel and replace it with new gravel. First of all it will be difficult to get exactly the same gravel, size and color mix. Secondly bringing in such a relatively small amount will be expensive.

Structured gravel removal
While removing the gravel we distinguish between clean gravel, a little dirty or heavily polluted gravel as these stages all need a different treatment.

Gravel removed here

The easy part is the clean gravel that can be reused as is. This is temporarily put into bags.
Then we have gravel that needs cleaning by washing dust and soil. In most cases this is combined with plenty of dead buxus leafs, dead stems, seed-boxes and the like. The worst is a mixture with soil, in particular clay and sand.

New cloth seen from the left-side garden

As the old plastic shows lots of holes and is tired apart and we did not have a drainage problem, I decided to let it in place and lay the barrier cloth on top of it.

Bringing back the gravel topping

Hand cleaning the least polluted gravel

Here you see me using tap-water to remove dust and clay by simply washing it. The clean gravel is then put in a bucket partly filed with water. In this way all the woody waste floats on the water and can thus be separated from the gravel.

Except for the size and shape of the buxus, the final result looks like it did 15 years ago. So nothing gained!
The gravel area looks like new

Still left with a couple of bags with highly soil "polluted" gravel. In one sack there is probably more sand and clay than pebbles, all together.

That is a dirty job for later.
Really dirty gravel still left

Related: Ground levelling, Drainage and Soil enrichment, Bottom surface maintenance, Raking training. Improve your raking skills, Constructing sand and gravel rakes.