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Driveway necessary really??

 
Posts: 1
Location: Vermont- Green Mountains
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Hello all,

I hope this question might be somewhere near to the right place.  I am wondering- is gravel (or other material) really necessary on a drive? I have purchased an beautiful parcel with a looooooong drive (ROW). I'm in my late 20's without a great income or savings, and can't imagine investing in the installation and maintenance of a gravel drive.  Right now I drive over grass and weeds, and it is only near the very end of the drive that there is some erosion happening (especially through a stone culvert built over a stream.

I have been unable to find- is there anything severely wrong with just continuing to drive in the grass? I imagine someday filling in the eroded spots and planting willow or some other erosion-preventing plant, and maybe doing my darndest to get wild strawberries over most of the surface area of the drive to prevent tall weeds and trees from taking root there. Any thoughts are appreciated.  I live in Southern Vermont in the Green Mountains.


Thank you!
 
master pollinator
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Location: southern Illinois.
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Much depends upon where you live.  In many areas the soil is firm enough to support a vehicle. In other areas the vehicle would sink to its roof in the mud.  When I lived in MN I had a very rocky driveway, but 1/4 mile away a vehicle would sink after a rain.  In my current driveway, I would be ok most of the year ... but not after a heavy rain.
 
gardener
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Location: Piedmont 7a
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I have a long driveway too, Shannon, so I get where you are coming from - who knew rocks could be so expensive?!?!

As John notes, a lot depends on the type of soil and how wet it gets and whether you can stay off it when it is wet and how often you come and go.

Eventually, it will begin to rut and need some attention, but why not see how long you can get away without it?
 
gardener
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Hi Shannon,

I think John and Artie are pretty much spot on with this.  Does your driveway have any base at all right now?  Sometimes an old gravel driveway can become overgrown and look as if it were never touched by mankind.  If this is the case, then you are in luck as the rocky base will at least hold in place.  If it is on actual soil, then eventually the driveway will rut, especially when wet.  I would imagine that winter could be tricky if you get some wet snow on top of soil.  I would think that combination would be especially prone to getting stuck and rutting.  And yes, plain old crushed rocks are surprisingly expensive.

Congrats on the new property and I wish you the best luck in the future.

Eric
 
gardener
Posts: 3475
Location: latitude 47 N.W. montana zone 6A
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Hi Shannon;
Welcome to Permies!
I know Vermont well. I practically grew up in the Ripton/ Middleberry section of Vermont and then later I spent quite a bit of time in the Putney area.
Very rocky soil , you will be fine for years with light vehicles. Over time it will rut , just collect free gravel from roadsides and creeks and hand pour it in the low spots. Also try to avoid making those ruts by using alternate path while driving to help keep it all flat.  I would not worry to much about planting things, its a driveway. Maybe at the creek area if it looks like it might get worse.
Have you been there thru a winter yet?  Do you have a plan for snow plowing? Have you been there thru a Mud season yet?  
If your answers are "no not yet" ... hang tight and see how things go. I knew quite a few folks who parked their car out at the road and used other transport to get in... ski's, snowmobiles, bikes or just walking . Vermont is a gorgeous state I miss the fall and winters there, but that humidity in all the east  coast  drove me to the mountains of Montana.  Going to be 95 here today with 28% humidity...
Enjoy your new land. Read all you can about Rocket Mass Heaters you'll want one next winter.
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gardener
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We're in the Ozarks, but with almost all rocks, and little soil to speak of - yet there's a part of our long gravel driveway that gets very soft, after a medium to heavy rain. That said, our not-rocky soil driveway in MI never saw a load of gravel, and only got soft and rutted in the heaviest of rains. Our driveway in KY was much the same. While the top layers make it messy or not, I honestly think the deeper layers play a bigger role in longer-term ground stability, for a driveway. It may take a couple seasons, or it may never get terribly bad, or bad enough that you'll feel the need to make a change. Personally, I'd leave it for a while, just to see, but id also keep something of an escape route available, just in case it gets impassible. When you least expect it, in my experience, THAT is when you'll have an emergency, and desperately need out - or in.
 
pollinator
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Congratulations on the land purchase - how exciting! Others have given you all sorts of answers already, but one thing I would try to do is to have wherever you end up parking regularly be on rocks or something other than earth, grass, etc. It doesn't have to be the whole driveway, only where you park. A mechanic once explained to me that cars parked on earth or grass rust much faster than the ones parked on cement, tar, stones, etc. since moisture stays on the earth, grass, etc. much longer than the other types of surfaces.
 
pollinator
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Location: Denmark 57N
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I would think an important thing would be how often you use the drive as well. if you drive in and out every day you will soon wear the grass away, but if you only come in and out once a week it will probably hold. Also think about deliveries and emergency vehicle access, here no delivery will touch a non gravel/paved/asphalted drive. I have also read about (but don't know personally as I am not in your area) about the fire department needing solid access.
 
gardener
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Location: Pacific Wet Coast
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Where I live, the Municipality gets very anxious if they think a fire truck can't get to your house or if there won't be enough water when they get there. Fire risk can be based on many factors and there are an equal number of ways to manage that risk:
1. make sure you'll have the water pressure needed to cope with small fires on your own (we had a neighbor that kept a deep pond filled in the summer specifically for fire suppression if needed)
2. plant fire resistant plants across wild-fire risk paths
3. there are special systems for outside fire suppression that are related to the indoor ones we're used to seeing in public buildings
4. following permaculture principles to hold water on the land - if you've got suitable places to build ponds that will stack the function of fire safety with food production

I'm sure others could come up with more suggestions once you're actually planning how to use your land. My point here is to think about this issue as you make your plans. I'm not advocating for a driveway just for that purpose, but someone else mentioned the issue of needing to get in or out when it's muddy and how even a little advanced planning could find solutions that are both cheaper and less environmentally costly than a driveway.
 
Posts: 134
Location: Durham, NC
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First of all yes, I do think a driveway is necessary  in most cases.  It is one of the first things I plan when evaluating a site. It doesn't have to be long, but it must reliably connect your domicile to a road so that you can get out and deliveries can get in.  

You have a long, established route that is covered in grass.  That doesn't sound like an accident.  But if it is, and there's no road base under that, I recommend you make one.  The most economical way i could come up with when i contemplated something similar was to line the driveway with logs, lay down a few inches of crushed road base, then top it with landscape tiles that you make a grass driveway from.   Its still not cheap but much better than gravel.  I share your pain.  I had to pass up a nice lot because I couldn't afford to build a driveway.  
 
master pollinator
Posts: 299
Location: Vermont, USA
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Hi Shannon!  Welcome from over in Windsor County!  I live just south of Woodstock, and west of Ascutney.

Have you lived in the north country before?  What kind of vehicle do you drive?

The winter is hell on driveways and cars, but not as bad as mud season.  On gravel roads, it's not uncommon to see ruts in the mud that are over a foot deep.  It's very hard to get through.  (The surface of the road thaws, and spring runoff saturates it.  But below the surface the road is frozen, so the water can't drain.  It's a nightmare.)  In the winter your grass driveway should be frozen, but when it thaws (as it does periodically during the winter) that's bad.

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news!  I think you should definitely have some gravel dropped in that culvert area, by someone who knows what they are doing.  Ask around; there are guys with dump trucks and gravel, and then there are guys who really know what they are doing.

I drove a Chevy Volt (plug-in hybrid) when I moved to Vermont.  The first winter sent me off to the dealership to buy a 4-wheel drive.  I hate having a vehicle that uses only gas, but I couldn't manage the roads with the Volt, which is extremely low to the ground.  

I think the fire department question is important, but less so in Vermont than in some other places.  Keep in mind as you look at your land that we have had precious little rain this year, so things are much drier now than usual.

And hello!  Welcome!
 
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