I had enough with spending weekends plucking weeds. I decided to replace my front lawn grass with river stone. I used sod cutter to take out the grass (and weeds) completely. I am going to replace with river stone in next spring. I live in Ottawa, Canada (Brutal winter). Is it ok to leave the yard without lawn or stone throughout the winter?

Thanks in advance!

2 Answers 2


If the weeds aren't that big of a deal I would cover that area with Reemay for the winter.

If the weeds are a big deal clumps of crab grass, thistles or other voracious weeds that have seeded that area of soil, then I would imagine solarization would be a big help since you do not want to grow in that soil again for a long while, right?

Solarization heats the soil high enough to kill most of the life forms in that soil; bacteria, fungi, weed seeds (some), crowns of mature clump grasses, thistles...

To do this one uses a clear, thick plastic membrane. Secure the edges beneath soil to help hold the heat produced under the plastic. Before installation of gravel this plastic is removed, and landscape fabric is installed.

You should also know about permeable surface percentages allowed by the city, county or your development. Gravel is NOT considered 100 percent permeable. Allowing the rain water to enter the aquifer from the surface of the soil is a critical thing. Something to know about and consider.

This year you want to do grade the soil you have to be able to drain and accept 4" of crushed gravel or cobble to meet the surface of your area/lawn/walkway. The correct level to allow a minimum of 4" of rock/gravel underlayed underlaid? with landscape fabric. You do not want to disturb the soil again in the spring when you install the fabric and rock.

If I were you I would edge the area with PT 2X4's and stakes, leveling and allowing the subsurface soil to drain either into a tiny swale beneath the rock to be installed or even drain pipe. Water will collect below the rock and it needs to be drained. The surface of the rock can be perfectly level but the surface of the soil should be formed to direct water SOMEWHERE else. Great for mosquitoes if you don't grade the subsurface, the original surface to direct water where you want water to flow so it doesn't collect.

Once you've made a drainage system, then overlay with fabric and then 4" of gravel. I prefer crushed 3/8 minus rock, just gray granite, basalt. Cobble is beautiful if you know how to make a 'dry river' bed but it is not usable to walk upon. Pea Gravel is fun for kids or a weird informal patio but heck to walk on , keep in place or set patio furniture and chairs upon. Rounded rock does not make a great surface. You want CRUSHED rock. 5/8 minus is best for driveways, 3/8 minus is more 'refined' easier to walk upon when barefoot? The minus part 'glues' the angular rocks together when you compact.

gravel walkway

paved walkway with cobble covered dry wells

cobble dry 'stream bed'

gravel and cobble little use pathway[![Gravel and cobble swales to collect water]5

3/8 minus crushed rock 4" deep with pt 2X4 edging scored to curve and landscape fabric between soil and gravel

The reason landscape fabric was even invented was for this purpose only, never for weed blocking. If one installs gravel with out landscape fabric and that gravel is a driveway or a walkway with weight/pressure applied on the surface, the gravel that was installed will 'sink' into the soil and the fines will 'float' upwards. The area then will have lots of weeds and soon no one will know gravel was ever there. 4" thick and COMPACTED makes incredible paths and driveways. Better than concrete, asphalt. Pavers are wonderful but expensive. This gravel can also become the perfect floor of a paved walkway/driveway if you allow another 3" above the gravel; 1" for compacted sand and 2" for pavers set side by side, no mortar.

  • Thanks for a detailed response! In my neighborhood many people used 1.5 inch size River stone and it looks good. Is it ok to use river stone if walking is not a big issue? If I opt for river stone, what size would your recommend? I have lot of weeds in the lawn. Therefore, I should not use Reemay for the winter if I have weeds right?
    – Mango
    Sep 16, 2018 at 19:15

Yes it is. The only issue you might have is if the weather does not conform to its usual pattern, and the soil is still warm enough for weed seeds to germinate. Nature abhors a vacuum, so something will grow in it, and both ends of winter are high risk for weed germination - if you can't get the stone down before winter, you'll just have to make sure you get it down asap after the snows have gone, prior to the soil heating up. Or just hoe out any seedlings present before laying the stone. In some ways it can be useful to wait - any deeprooted weeds which might still have roots in the ground will show themselves, and you'll have a chance to extract them prior to spreading the stone.

  • Presumably the OP is not planning on growing anything on the stone area, so there is no restriction on using herbicides to get rid of any emerging weeds next spring/summer.
    – alephzero
    Sep 10, 2018 at 18:50
  • @alephzero Maybe so - but I never use a chemical if a bit of physical effort will do the job...its healthier for the person doing it, and a lot healtheir for the environment
    – Bamboo
    Sep 10, 2018 at 19:08
  • There is always a way that is better than using herbicides/pesticides. Solarization is fantastic!
    – stormy
    Sep 11, 2018 at 0:10
  • Bamboo, that is why I think when we humans get out into space a bit more, we will find life everywhere. Just because nature abhors a vacuum. And I do not think life has to be based on our template; water, goldilocks zone...I think the only requisite is stability and time.
    – stormy
    Sep 11, 2018 at 0:12
  • All, thanks for all the comments. Solraization seems to be the way to go. Isn't it great that Sun can create life as well as kills the life?
    – Mango
    Sep 16, 2018 at 19:26

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