Interlock and River Rock: Pros and Cons

Interlocked sidewalks or driveways/laneways and river rock instead of lawns may look nice and tidy until the weeds move in. And they will try, you just have to stay on top of them for a winning look.

Weeds are inevitable as their seeds blow around in the wind, lodging themselves in the cracks between the interlocked stones or river rock. They can settle into the tiniest of cracks and then sprout to become a huge mess. Don’t disparage the contractor that you paid to make your yard look nice, it is not (generally) their fault. Weeds and wind are facts of nature.

Polymer Sand Between Interlock

Most landscapers use polymer sand, AKA hardscape, jointing, or paver sand, a mixture of fine grains of sand and bonding agents. These products fill in the cracks between the interlock stones of sidewalks, patios, and driveways. The benefits are stability (the stones don’t shift), weed control, and even insect control.

The problem is, even when applied properly (there is a specific method of applying polymer sand) weed seeds will still congregate on top.

The most recent look in interlock involves larger slabs of stone, meaning fewer cracks for weed seeds to invade and you to keep clean. That’s a move in the right direction.

Landscape Fabric Under River Rock

Landscape fabric is (should be) used under river rock when it replaces lawns to help keep weeds from poking through from underneath. Some aggressive weeds still do manage to get through the barrier though. As mentioned above, nothing prevents weed seeds from blowing from above and settling between the rocks.

Landscape fabric can be purchased in (very) large rolls or smaller, more manageable rolls. Regardless of the roll size, choose the heavy-duty kind.

Unstable Footing

One of my biggest complaints about landscaping with river rock is the instability of the rock surface for anyone walking on it. That would be me working in a client’s garden. Even though I always wear stable shoes, I still find the rocks unstable to walk on so worry about twisted ankles.

I do find the smaller stones more stable than the larger ones.

Interlock and River Rock, pros and cons

Vinegar to Kill and Deter Weeds in Interlock or River Rock

Vinegar, and not just regular vinegar but the extra strength “cleaning” vinegar, works well to kill any weeds that do manage to sprout between the cracks of your interlock or stones/rocks. It also deters new weeds from sprouting. I put the vinegar in a large pressurized sprayer to make large applications easier.

Interlock and River Rock, weeds

Weed Torches to Keep Interlock and River Rock Tidy

Another method of removing weeds that have sprouted between the cracks of your walkways or patios or your river rock is a propane-powered weed torch. I have yet to try one but have heard only good reviews on them.


I don’t mean to discourage anyone from replacing their old, outdated walkways with much prettier interlock or their lawns with river rock, but want people to be aware these types of landscaping still require work. Lots of work.

photo credit: Pexels free photos

Kid-Friendly Gardens

how to make your gardens kid friendly

It occurred to me recently that I needed to create kid-friendly gardens so my grandchildren can enjoy them as much as I do. They love my backyard, but my repeated “don’t step on the flowers” as they explore was starting to sound like a broken record. So, I decided to make the gardens kid-friendly and grandma-calm.

Stepping Stones Create Kid-Friendly Gardens

The idea for pathways of stepping stones weaving throughout my kid-friendly gardens sprouted in my brain when a gardening client asked if I had the use for several stones she had left over from a patio project.

make your gardens kid friendly

I also have some bricks that were previously used to edge my backyard gardens. I decided years ago that I prefer a more natural edging as the bricks made it difficult to mow the lawn right up to the garden edge. Grass also (annoyingly and time-consuming) grew in between them. The bricks had also shifted over the years so were no longer nice and even, a sore spot with me.

A few seasons in and they had to go. Instead of digging up the bricks at the time, I left them in place and extended my gardens in width. Now I am digging them up to use for the kid-sized stepping stones. These are in their new places, just waiting to be sunk into the ground for stability…

make your gardens kid friendly

I sought the advice of my eldest granddaughter as to whether I should paint the stepping stones a bright colour so that she, her siblings, and her cousins can see them better. She voted no, telling me it is more fun to discover them. Great answer!

I added the pathways at the beginning of the season when perennials are small. This way I can visualize the spacing needed to create the meandering effect I desire. For example, in the photo above, you can see the lily of the valley pips poking through the ground. In a few week’s time, the plantings will have filled out and the paths will look like they have been there forever.

Landing Pads in Kid-Friendly Gardens

Along with the pathways of stepping stones, I created landing pads in specific spots. There is one in front of each birdbath for little feet to step on while filling the birdbath.

There are now also several landing pads a foot back from the edge of my pond, so my grandkids know to stop there. At least most of them do. No names will be mentioned, but one little boy likes to push the boundaries and get as close as he can. If I let him, he would climb right in there.

Plants Surrounding the Stepping Stones and Landing Pads

To keep the look of the stepping stones and landing pads as natural as possible, I placed them in the middle of low-growing, resilient ground cover. The pathways now wind throughout my back gardens, perfect for exploring and wandering. They also create access for me, the chief gardener, to weed, plant, amend the soil, add mulch etc.

The stepping stones and landing pads are also located well away from any fragile or thorny plantings. For their safety and my stress level. Again, some of the grandchildren care more about avoiding prickly things and treating the plants with a healthy respect, others run through the paths full steam ahead.

Whimsical Touches

One of the things I love the most about tending different gardens is the whimsical touches that make each garden unique.  Whimsical touches give each garden added appeal, often allowing a glimpse of the owner’s personality.

Many of the whimsical touches in my own gardens were gifts to me.  The raccoons are especially dear to me as they came from my dad’s garden.  My grandkids love the animals most of all. Birdhouses, wind chimes, artwork, creatures or critters, pagodas, obelisks, arbours, stepping stones, whatever. The stepping stones on the fence were too precious to walk on so are now wall art; the kids all painted their own.

Get creative, use your imagination, and add your own whimsical touches to create your own kid-friendly gardens. Even if you don’t have or want kids wandering through your gardens, these added touches are enjoyable at any age and make your garden unique. This big kid loves them too!

I would love to add a large inukshuk and totem pole, somewhere and sometime. And perhaps a small tree fort; I have a spot all picked out in the sprawling branches of an apple tree.

2023 Update

This spring I changed up the stepping stones in my kid-friendly garden since my grandkids’ feet are growing so fast. I like the shape and look of these new (fake) stones, purchased at Home Depot. Instead of heavy (and expensive) stone, these are made of recycled plastic, with notches on the back so you simply step on them to connect them to the soil. The trick is to install them after things start to poke through in the spring but before the plantings get too lush. There are 45 in total. Amazon has a cute collection of stepping stones as well, with lots to choose from. I like these rubber ones and the ones that look like cut logs…

These bigger stepping stones are also great for keeping Grandpa’s big feet out of my flowers too. His need to tidy everything up too early in the spring drives me crazy, we get into an argument every time about the benefits of decayed leaves on the soil and the plants that need time to rebound from the winter. I prefer to gently rake old leaves from the emerging plants onto the soil around them, then cover the leaves with compost. He likes to rake everything, hard. At least the stepping stones will prevent him from trodding on slow-to-emerge plants.

Now I have a few piles of various bricks and stones to get rid of.

The tree fort is not likely to happen as the apple tree I was thinking of to house it had to be pruned after the recent ice storm damaged one of the large branches. (you can see from the pictures above the branches we had to remove) We had been considering pruning the branch that leaned on the back fence for a few years, so this was a good time to do it.

As long as my grandkids are interested in wandering through them, I will continue to keep my kid-friendly gardens just that.

The Last Bee

2035 The Last Bee is a fascinating movie currently in production about the looming extinction of bees. It has an estimated release date of February 2021, which is not that far off. Watch the movie’s trailer to get a glimpse of what is to come.

I learned about the movie from Project Bee. My interest was piqued when I read their Facebook article about creating wildflower gardens on city boulevards. I would love to initiate such a program in my hometown of Kanata, a suburb of Ottawa. In the meantime, I plant and encourage others to plant perennials the bees love…

from the ProjectBee Facebook page

Gardens4u is all about respecting, conserving, protecting, and enjoying what Mother Nature provides us with. That includes bees, in fact, I have been known to talk to the bees I encounter in my own and my clients’ gardens. I never use toxic chemicals to remove bugs, weeds, and the like in these gardens.

Even though I had a painful encounter with a bumblebee last summer I do appreciate their unique contribution to our landscape.

To learn more about the movie 2035 The Last Bee and the dedication of the production team behind it, check out this website. Support them any way you can, the bees depend on it!