Gravel Beds

What is a community gravel bed?

A gravel bed is an irrigated bed or pile of gravel where bare root or washed containerized stock is placed and safely held for up to 3-6 months. This system has been in use at commercial nurseries, municipalities, and universities for over 20 years. There are many communities in Minnesota that have built and are currently using the gravel bed system with great success.

In a gravel bed, the above ground portion of the tree will not grow any faster than normal. The purpose of the gravel bed is to increase the fibrous root system, prepare for planting at a later date and recover poor root systems.  A gravel bed can provide many advantages over planting traditional bare root, balled and burlapped, and containerized stock.


  • There are several advantages to having a community gravel bed:
  • Gravel beds save the community money because they utilize bare root stock, which is readily available in spring.  Bare root stock is typically 1/2 the price of containerized trees and 1/4 the price of balled and burlap trees.
  • Gravel beds improve the plant’s health and survival rate because trees planted in a community gravel bed will have an increased fibrous root system.  An increased fibrous root system allows the tree to readily take up water and nutrients thus decreasing the effects of transplant shock.
  • Gravel beds increase species availability because there are typically more species available as bare root stock than in containerized or balled and burlap stock.
  • Since there is a greater species availability in bare root stock in spring, gravel beds allow for bare root stock to be planted in the fall to avoid droughts that can happen over the summer months.
  • Gravel beds reduce a community’s vulnerability to insects and disease by leading to a more diverse urban forest.

Want to learn more?

For a detailed look into what gravel beds are, their costs, and their benefits take a look at the "All You Need to Know About Community Gravel Beds" link below. 

All You Need to Know About Community Gravel Beds (PDF)

Gravel Bed Insights from Practitioners - MnSTAC Forum 11/16/2017 (PDF)

Gravel Bed Suitability Rating for Trees and Shrubs

Minnesota Community Gravel Bed Inventory

Visit the inventory page for a map and inventory list of gravel beds throughout the state!

Mankato's Gravel Bed Established 2013

Mankato's Gravel Bed, established 2013

A closer look at Mankato's gravel bed

A closer look at Mankato's gravel bed