If you’re looking for an environmentally friendly, classically beautiful, budget friendly material to enhance your property, then crushed seashell may be the answer. This material not only adds property value and curb appeal, but it’s better for the planet too. Are you considering an upgrade to your walkways or driveway? Are weeds overtaking your gardens? Do you have a high traffic area that would benefit from a walkway? If so, read on to find out more about using this versatile material.
Limiting your paved surfaces will help keep our water clean and help prevent flooding in your community. Permeable surfaces, like crushed shell, help combat the issues of surface runoff. According to the USGS Water Science School, “As watersheds are urbanized, much of the vegetation is replaced by impervious surfaces, thus reducing the area where infiltration to groundwater can occur. Thus, more stormwater runoff occurs—runoff that must be collected by extensive drainage systems that combine curbs, storm sewers, and ditches to carry stormwater runoff directly to streams. More simply, in a developed watershed, much more water arrives into a stream much more quickly, resulting in an increased likelihood of more frequent and more severe flooding.” As water travels through our streets and sewers, it picks up sediments and pollutants, which then end up in our watershed. When rainwater can quickly be absorbed into permeable surfaces, it has less of a chance to cause flooding or pollution.
Another benefit of crushed shell is that it actually feeds the soil! As the shell breaks down it adds calcium and chitins to the soil. Chitins are used to make an ingredient in many fertilizers which helps to stimulate plant growth and help with resistance to certain fungi. When used for driveways and walkways, this natural fertilization may add to that dramatic look of white shell against lush green grass. It’s also a great reason to use shells in a garden as mulch.
A crushed shell path in Colonial Willamsburg. Photo by Justine Hand.
Although fairly uncommon, crushed shell as mulch is gaining popularity for obvious reasons. Not only is it better for the soil but it is a fantastic barrier against weeds. Mixing the shell with seagrasses results in an extremely low maintenance garden. Unless you have a sloped garden, shells will do fantastic. They will also keep your soil warmer than typical mulch, which is helpful in our cooler climate.
When purchased in bulk, crushed shell is comparable to gravel in price and usually less than asphalt, concrete, or stone. Less maintenance is also required since weeds are much less an issue than with gravel, it won’t crack like asphalt or concrete, and ruts won’t be an issue like with gravel or stone. You will occasionally need to fill in more shells to replenish your driveway as they breakdown.
All in all, we think crushed shell is a great alternative to use in hardscapes. Being the Ocean State, it’s only logical to use our abundant natural resources responsibly and do our part to keep the water clean. Classically beautiful and environmentally friendly; who could ask for more!?