When landscaping your own yard, you might only have gravel, sand and rock to work with. Any other landscaping materials could cost you more money. Still, you can work out a nice landscaping project that is easy on the pocketbook if you have all three in your backyard. Even if you have only two of the three, you can save by only having to buy one medium.
Use gravel left over from another project (e.g. digging for a pool, leveling the yard) to fill the bottom of raised beds. The gravel assists in the drainage for the plants. Gravel is also used in French drains for those who have drainage problems. To build a French drain, dig the drain, starting at the problem area. Direct the drain to an area that needs excess water. Line the bottom 4 inches of the drain with gravel. Top off with loam, then plant grass or flowers over the drain.
Mix sand with loam to make a sandy-loam mixture for plants that prefer dry, sandy conditions. Prepare flowerbeds for tropical, sand-loving plants with the sand or sand-loam mixture. The flowerbeds might be raised beds, or they might be outlined with other materials. If you are putting an above-ground pool in, you need sand to build up the inside against the walls, to protect the liner. You might also create a sand barrier around the outside the pool, so that weeds cannot grow close to the pool wall or grow under the liner. The sand barrier also looks nice when dotted with shells, potted plants and decorative yard statues.
All three mediums are used in creating pathways. Determine where in the landscaping you would like a rock path. Outline the path with a long garden hose, rope or lawn-marking paint. Dig the path to a depth of 4 inches. Line the bottom of the path with 1 inch of gravel. Add a 1-inch layer of sand over the gravel. Pack the gravel and sand down, then add a ½-inch layer of gravel and ½-inch layer of sand. Arrange the rocks along the path. Pour sand in the spaces between the rocks, then sweep the excess sand off to the edges of the pathway and into the spaces between the rocks.