Okay, I’m going to totally blow your mind. Are you trying to create a playground area? Forget the Playground Mulch… use #8 River Gravel (that’s the pea-sized gravel) instead.
Why? Because River Gravel does not pack down, so it maintains a lot of ‘give’. If you’ve ever tried to walk on 4-6 inches of small, rounded gravel, you’ll know that it’s quite “squishy”, making it an excellent cushioning material.
Also, it does not retain water like mulches do. Water drains right through, and as soon as the sun comes out the playground is ready to be used again.
It is small enough that even when it is thrown, chances are it won’t injure anyone, and the small pebbles are extremely difficult to choke on.
What to do?
It’s important to pick the site carefully. The ideal location would be the highest point in the yard that is not completely in the shade.
Plan the size. For ease, it is best to use increments of 8 or 4 feet. You will be using timbers to frame in the area and they are 8’ in length. For example, an area that was 12’ x 12’ would require 1½ timbers per side and would be easier than creating a 14’ x 14’ area.
Lay landscape fabric right on top of your lawn. Don’t worry about killing the grass first, it will die off on its own(don’t worry, it won’t feel a thing). Don’t dig down or you will create a pond. Ponds are good, but not under the swing set. The landscape fabric is important. It acts as a material separator preventing the gravel from settling into the dirt and it also makes it easy to remove the playground area when the little ones are all grown up. (*sigh* it goes so fast…)
Frame in the area with timbers. You will set the timbers on top of the landscape fabric.
If you create a gradual topsoil bank on the outside of the timbers, it will help keep the timbers in place without using spikes. (A good approximation is to make the bank 1½ times the width of your lawn mower.)
Leave the lowest side partially unbanked. This will allow to water to drain freely away from the playground area.
Fill with # 8 River Gravel.
Now you have a great, cushioned area, your family will be thrilled and your neighbors will think you’re cool for being so innovative.