Learn the Pros and Cons of Rocks vs. Mulch for Your Landscaping Needs
There is actually no clear answer as to what product is best to put in your flowerbeds. It all depends on your preference and what type of appearance you want to create as well as your budget.
Rocks vs. Mulch: Which is Better in Flowerbeds?
Many homeowners cherish the beauty of fresh and brightly colored mulch when they add it to their flowerbeds for a great contrast to offset the plants. Others prefer to use landscaping rocks or stones for a more natural appearance. Learn the pros and cons of each so you can decide which best suits your needs and your intended great landscaping design project.
The Pros of Using Mulch
Mulch is actually barked mulch from trees that are shredded. It serves several purposes because it is aesthetically pleasing to the eye and it is functional in that it retains moisture levels in the soil. This means that you won’t need as much supplemental irrigation over the natural rainfall in your flower garden–which can save you time and money. Mulch helps to discourage the growth of any unwanted and nuisance weeds around your flowers, shrubs, and trees. It performs this duty by blocking out the sun that is needed for weed seeds to germinate. Without light, they simply won’t grow and this saves a lot of time from agonizingly pulling weeds by hand. Organic mulch, such as wood chips, will decompose over time. The decomposition process replenishes all of the surrounding soil with valuable nutrients to fertilize all of your plants. This means less time spent on actually applying additional fertilizers to individual flowerbeds. Mulch is also super easy to apply to an area. You can simply open a bag, empty it into a wheelbarrow and use a shovel to place it around all of your plants, trees, and shrubs. You can then water the dry mulch so it will stay in place even if heavy rainfall is imminent.
The Cons of Using Mulch
As your mulch starts to decompose, it will need to be replaced if you want your gardens to still have a fresh and clean appearance. This is something you will need to be at least once a year–most homeowners do this in the spring when they add extra plants to their flowerbeds or twice a year if they plant annuals in the spring and fall times. Mulch does attract insects, such as roaches and termites because it is made of wood bark. As trees attract these bugs, so does the bark chips of the trees. After you put fresh mulch in your garden area, it looks bright and fresh with lots of color and contrast for your plants, however, in a few months, the color will begin to fade and it won’t look as fresh as when it was first laid down. When you use mulch in an area, you need to have some sort of retainer around the perimeter. An area that is prone to floods or near a downspout from your home could wash away your mulch without it having a barrier to hold it in place. When you decide to clean up fallen leaves out of mulch, the leaves will be harder to remove by simply blowing them out, as they cling to the mulch. Dry mulch that hasn’t had rainfall or irrigation for quite some time can actually catch on fire with a misguided toss of a lit cigarette. So, if you have mulch near an area for entertaining outdoors, such as a back porch area, make certain you have ashtrays available and ask everyone who smokes to use them, please.
Pros of Landscaping with Gravel or Stones
Gravel has a great ability to promote healthy drainage. It slowly percolates the water back into the ground and soil supply. This works especially well if it is in a low area where water has a tendency to collect and stand in your lawn or in a flowerbed with plants that generally prefer drier conditions. Landscape gravel and stone don’t decompose or decay. This means you place it around your garden plants, shrubs and trees and you won’t have to replace it on an ongoing basis like you need to do with mulch. You may need to add a bit more from time to time to keep the area looking fresh and aesthetically pleasing though. Gravel has the same qualities of mulch when it comes to weeds. It blocks the sunlight so any weed seeds or grass seeds that blow into the area can’t germinate. If you use a larger gravel that is about 1 to 3 inches, you can simply use a leaf blower to clean the area and blow the leaves away easily and quickly when it needs cleaning. You can find gravel in a huge variety of colors, shapes, and sizes to use as a groundcover anywhere on your property.
Cons of Landscaping with Gravel or Stones
The largest con of landscaping with gravel or stones is that it is more expensive than mulch. It is also more difficult to install, as you need to be more aware of where you place the stones to get full coverage on the ground and gravel is much heavier than mulch, so it takes more effort to install it. You will need to install edging to keep the gravel off the grassy areas around it, so it doesn’t damage a lawnmower when the blades hit the rocks. However, landscape stone in your beds is more cost-effective than mulch in the long run, because you don’t need to replace it every year. Gravel and stones do hold and reflect heat, so you should be wary of the plants with rocks in the beds because they can feel an increase in the temperatures around them.
Gravel vs. Mulch: Which is Best for Your Landscaping Needs?
Both materials have their pros and work well to promote soil and plant health. It actually comes down to your specific requirements and your personal preference.
You should understand the needs of your plants. As mulch can absorb moisture and hold it in while preventing the evaporation of the soil, it is a smart idea to use wood chips and other similar materials around plants that require plenty of water in order to survive.
Gravel will prevent erosion, but it doesn’t retain moisture, though it has a big focus on drainage. This makes it the best material to place around plants that prefer a dry area, such as succulents and cacti.
You should also think about aesthetics when you choose a bed material. If you choose the mulch, will you still be as excited about it after the color fades away? If you think about rocks, would you like the looks of smooth brown gravel or Red Crimson stones with a striking red color that doesn’t fade?
When you carefully consider both the pros and cons of both mulch and rocks, you are equipped to make a decision between the two for your bedding plants or you can actually choose both and use mulch around water-loving plants and rocks around plants that prefer a dry climate.