River rock or gravel makes an excellent ground cover. Besides being aesthetically appealing, it can add different texture to your landscaping. River rock can control erosion problems in your yard, protect plant roots, and conserve moisture, which is very important, especially in late July and August when the water bills begin skyrocketing.
I recommend using a landscape fabric underneath to control weeds and prevent the pebbles or rock from settling into the mud. Use a breathable fabric that allows air and moisture to penetrate freely and always avoid newspaper or plastic. Landscape fabric comes in rolls of various sizes and can be purchased at any local garden center or home improvement center. The fabric should be pinned down to the ground, and river rock should be spread over the top. Use a safe razor-knife or scissors to cut the fabric.
It is probably easier to plant large trees and shrubs first, then lay the fabric by cutting slits and holes to accommodate the plants. Perennial flowers can be added next by cutting an "X" in the fabric wherever a perennial accent is desired.
River rock is also excellent to use around the foundation of your home. It can eliminate mud and wet conditions around your foundation. Using a three to five foot no-water-zone around the foundation will also help control erosion. Just remember to excavate the soil around your home before adding the rock. It is important to remove or dig out the thickness of the landscaping material being brought in and not change the drainage conditions around your home. Remember, water needs to drain away from the house.
Luanne Harms, Smith County Master Gardener
Texas AgriLife Extension Service