Skip to content

Should I use Mulch or Rock?

We know there are many benefits of mulching yards. However, you might have noticed many people use rock instead of mulch in the yard or the garden. This raises the question Should I use Mulch or Rock in the garden?

Using mulch or rock in the garden depends on what your requirements are. There are benefits to mulch as well as rock. First, we have to understand when to use mulch or rock. 


Mulch

should I use mulch vs rock

Photo: Mulch, Should I use Mulch or Rock?

Mulch is material such as dead leaves that are placed around a plant in order to shield its base and its roots, enhance the soil quality, or prevent the growth of weeds. Mulch is used to retain moisture in the soil, suppress weeds, keep the soil cool, prevent frost heaving in winter, and make the garden bed look more attractive. Organic mulches also help improve the soil’s structure, drainage, and nutrient-holding capacity as they decompose. 

You read more about mulch in what is mulching and Its benefits


Rock

Mulch

Photo: Rock mulch, Should I use Mulch or Rock?

Rock mulch consists of beautiful pebbles or stones that are used as a ground cover for a variety of uses, including flower beds, around the bases of trees, fire pits, gardens, swimming pools, and ponds, amongst other places. Gravel ranging in size from a pea to ping-pong ball, and often much bigger, is typically obtained from river bottoms or locations with rocky terrain. There is a huge range of variability in terms of the colors, sizes, and textures of the gravel that can be purchased.

Homeowners have the potential to be extremely exact in the decisions they make about the design of their landscapes thanks to the wide variety of textures and colors. When purchasing conventional mulch, your selection options are often restricted to several colors of brown. Even so-called “red” mulch tends to seem more brown than red.

Watch web stories: Mulch vs Rock: Which Is best?


Should I use Mulch or Rock? 

The majority of mulch is composed of organic material, and it may be found in a number of different forms. The components that are used most often in the manufacture of mulch are pine straw, tree bark, grass clippings, wood chips, moss, and leaves. Newspaper, compost, manure, and rubber are a few of the other materials that are often used.

Rock mulch is often derived from river banks and consists of ornamental gravel or rocks varying in size from the size of peas to that of golf balls.

It is available in a broad range of sizes, colors, textures, and forms, ranging from porous, black lava rock or lightweight red to attractive, smooth crystal sand mulch in purple or pink in a number of other tones.


When is Rocks a better choice than mulch?

But when should you use rock in your landscaping instead of anything else?

  • Rock is an excellent option for mulch because it allows water to swiftly drain away, making it a good alternative for properties that have drainage problems.
  • It is an alternative that requires little to no upkeep and may be used in open bed areas where there are no plants.
  • It is an ideal choice for footpaths in high-traffic locations where people often try to cut corners. The trampled plants have a dreadful appearance, yet the rocks are unaffected by the stress.
  • Rocks give excellent background for any kind of fountain or statue that you would want to use to create an impressive entrance.
  • If you are a property owner that is not fascinated by mulching, then the rock is more your style.

Read: 20 Golden Watering Plants Rules


Mulch vs Rock Cost

The cost of rock is much higher than that of bark mulch.

A layer of rock mulch typically costs between two and three times as much as mulch, however, the price of rock mulch might vary based on the kind and size of the rock.

Be mindful, however, that, unlike bark mulch, it does not decompose and sink into the ground over time. It is not necessary to change it on a yearly basis. Therefore, you can end up saving money in the long run.


Does your soil need Mulch?

Mulch!

Photo: Mulch Garden, Should I use Mulch or Rock?

Organic mulch, such as bark or wood chips, decomposes over time and turns into nutrient-rich pieces that are really beneficial to the soil because of their incorporation into the soil.

Rocks provide nothing beneficial to the earth in any way. Therefore, it’s possible that plants that thrive in beds that are mulched with pebbles may need more fertilization.


Does the Use of Rock Mulch Harm the Soil?

Rock mulches are denser than their biodegradable or crushed bark mulch equivalents, and as a result, they have the potential to cause soil compaction in regions that have a thicker layer of mulch or bigger rocks. The problems that result from compacted soil vary from water collecting on the top to the difficulty of roots to easily reach the air, water, or nutrients that are necessary for their continued existence.

You might also look at the fact that rocks do not provide nutrients to the soil in the same way as pine bark mulch and other types of wood chips do when they break down, which is another factor that contributes to compact soil. Rock mulches have the ability to suck away heat from the sun, hence increasing the temperature of the underlying soil.

This will cause the soil to dry up, which will lead to circumstances similar to drought for the plants’ root systems. The plants in your gardens will suffer from stress, which may affect both their health and the pace at which they develop if you do not cultivate kinds that are resilient to the effects of drought.

Rocks have a tendency to raise the pH level of the soil over time, making it more alkaline. When the soil is acidic, trees are able to flourish to their full potential. It’s possible that you may be risking the health of your trees by applying rock mulch around the bases of them without even realizing it.


Things before choosing Mulch or Rocks

  • Rocks may not be the greatest option for your landscaping if it contains trees that shed a lot of leaves and other waste, since this material tends to gather and get stuck in the rocks.
  • To prevent weeds from growing through the spaces between rocks, it is necessary to place a weed barrier made of cloth below the rocks.
  • To prevent rocks from wandering into grassy areas, an elevated concrete barrier or steel edging must be installed around the rocks. Rock beds may seem more organized with the help of edging.
  • Rock mulch is not beneficial to the growth of flowers, but it is beneficial to the growth of hardy, drought-resistant plants like succulents. Rock beds are inherently hotter than mulch beds, thus the plants that are grown in rock beds need to be able to resist the heat. Before settling on a mulch, give some thought to the kinds of plants you have.

Where to use Rock mulch?

Rock mulch is ideally suited for usage in areas surrounding landscape shrubs and trees, in cactus or herb gardens, and in specialty gardens such as Japanese or alpine-themed gardens when it is applied around plants. Rock mulch is also often used in herb gardens. 


Pros and Cons of Using Rocks

Pros

  • Rocks have very little care required. After they have been put in place, you won’t need to spend a lot of time maintaining these mulches.
  • Extremely long-lasting and may even serve you for your whole life if you take good care of it.
  • Reduces the amount of water that is lost via evaporation from the soil and makes it more accessible to your roots.
  • An approach that is successful in preventing the development of weeds. If they are put properly, they will prevent weeds from growing into their lawn and damaging it.
  • Fungi are unable to store water, which is a need for their development.
  • a wide variety of uses, each of which is useful and aesthetically beautiful in its own way.
  • Wood chips and bark mulches are not as good as rocks in controlling soil erosion.
  • Beneficial in regions that have a high risk of wildfires. Because they may easily catch fire, you can place rock mulches wherever you like, even right up to your buildings.

Cons

  • Rocks do not deteriorate over time. Therefore, they do not provide any of the necessary nutrients to the soil. There is a possibility that the local flora needs extra nutrition.
  • In comparison to bark mulch, they are more likely to be heavy, inconvenient, and difficult to install.
  • It is possible that the first cost will be up to six times the amount that you would spend on conventional landscaping mulch.
  • The potential to retain heat from the sun results in a rise in the temperature of the soil to dangerous levels.
  • Have the capacity to create compacted soil in the areas surrounding your house in which they are installed.
  • It will be quite difficult for you to plant annuals on your land in the future due to the weight of the boulders and the weed barrier.

Pros and Cons of Using Tradition Mulch

Pros

  • Stone mulches are heavier, but this kind of mulch is lighter and simpler to deal with.
  • It eventually decomposes, therefore restoring vital nutrients to the soil as the process continues.
  • A lower initial investment compared to the expense of using mulch pebbles. Although there will be additional expenses on occasion, the total amount will not be excessive.
  • It’s possible to virtually double a tree’s growth rate by surrounding its trunk with a ring of mulch that’s anywhere from three to six feet wide.
  • Holds onto water, allowing it to be taken up by the plants’ root systems, which in turn promotes robust development.
  • Beneficial in slowing the process of soil erosion and runoff. Rock mulches are superior at doing this, although they still retain some of their preventative capabilities.
  • Maintains a consistent temperature all year round in the soil.
  • The development of weeds and the seeds they produce may be effectively controlled.
  • To perform its function as a barrier, it does not call for the use of edging or a section of landscape fabric.

Cons

  • At a minimum of once per year, conventional mulches should be replaced.
  • The expense that occurs on an annual basis is due to the need to acquire fresh bark mulch, organic mulch, or wood chips for landscaping purposes.
  • In comparison to rocks, it is more susceptible to being swept away by rainstorms and gale-force winds.
  • Insects that lay eggs might be drawn to your home if you let mulch hang around for an extended period of time.
  • In dry and hot weather, leaving it out where it may dry out completely poses a risk of starting a fire.
  • Your plants might die if there is too much mulch around them.
  • Sunlight causes a gradual fading of the hue over time.

The use of either mulch or rock mulch provides homeowners with an efficient means of weed suppression on their lawns. Both of these options provide protection against soil erosion and runoff to varying degrees. Both may have a significant impact on the appearance of your environment, making it more attractive and distinctive.

When it comes time to make a decision, write down what issues you want the mulch to answer, as well as your budget and your preferences about the appearance of the area. It’s possible that one is more notable than the other in some respects. It’s possible that you recognize distinct areas of your yard that might benefit from each kind of mulch.

To put it another way, that’s the beauty of lawn maintenance. Your creativity and the amount of information you choose to acquire are the only things that can hold you back.