Garden Design: Rocks vs Mulch
When it comes to the design of your garden landscape, there are a lot of decisions to be made. Mulching around the plants, trees, and bushes is extremely important as it suppresses weeds and adds a polished look to the overall design. The type of mulch material that will be best in your garden depends on several factors. The two main choices for the garden landscape are rocks and mulch.
The Basic Differences
Mulch, like wood chips, pine needles, and sawdust, is an organic material. It will need to be laid down every year since it disintegrates over time. Rocks don’t break down and can be laid down in your garden bed once and then just added to once in a while as maintenance. The benefits to the garden and your plants vary too. Mulch provides a much better environment for the health of your plants while rocks don’t provide much at all.
Why Choose Mulch?
Besides being an excellent weed suppressant, mulch provides many other fantastic benefits. It has been shown that mulch allows trees and plants to grow faster. A huge plus! Mulch also reduces the need for watering since the organic material holds more water in than rocks do. Additionally, as the mulch breaks down over time, it adds nutrients back into the soil. Rocks cannot do this. As the seasons’ change, mulch gives the plants the protection they need. In the summer, it cools the ground and in the winter, it adds an extra layer of warmth around the plants.
The Downsides of Organic Mulch
The biggest downside of mulch is also one of it’s biggest benefits. It breaks down over time. This provides the plants with nutrients which is fabulous, however, that also means you will need to replace it over 2-4 years. This can be costly depending on the size of the space. The other problems with mulch occur due to inexperience using it. Adding too much mulch can stress out plants and suffocate them. Adding too little can negate all the weed-blocking and water-saving benefits. If the mulch is added too early or too late in the season, it can affect the growth of your plants.
Why Choose Rocks?
The number one benefit of rocks as a landscaping choice is that they don’t need to be replaced. It is a one-time cost and because of that, it makes rocks a less expensive choice over organic mulch. Rocks are also fantastic weed-blockers. In areas where wildfires are an issue, rocks are a much better choice over organic mulch which will burn right up. In areas where high winds are an issue, rocks will stay right where they are and prevent soil erosion.
The Downsides of Rocks
Unlike organic mulch, rocks provide no nutritional benefit to the garden or the soil. When it is hot out, rocks hold onto heat and can raise the temperature of the soil. This causes thirsty and stressed out plants. In addition, rocks can throw off the pH of your soil since they are alkaline and trees like acidic soil.
When deciding which mulch to use for your garden landscape, consider what your garden goals are and how to best achieve them.