After you plant new trees, shrubs and flowers, you want to add the finishing touch–mulch. Mulch makes your landscape look pristine and polished.
But, does it matter what kind of mulch you use? Or, should you perhaps replace mulch with stones?
Read on to learn the pros and cons of mulching with an organic mulch or an inorganic mulch like rocks.
Rocks vs. Mulch–Which Is Better in Flower Beds and Around Trees?
Pros and Cons of Organic Mulch
- Better Growth: Mulch can nearly double how fast trees and plants grow, according to this study.
- Less Water: Mulch reduces water evaporation, so you spend less time and money watering!
- More Nutrients: As mulch breaks down, it adds nutrients that plants need to thrive.
- Fewer Weeds: Mulch stops weed seeds from sprouting, so you may see 50 percent fewer weeds.
- Just the Right Temperature: Mulch keeps plants warm in the winter and cool in the summer.
- Reduce Compaction and Erosion: Mulch reduces soil erosion by up to 85 percent. Plus, people are less likely to walk on mulch, so there’s less soil compaction.
- Annual Replacement: Depending on your mulch type, you’ll have to replace it every one to four years. So, it’s a recurring cost and time expense.
- Too Much of a Good Thing: Adding a layer of mulch more than 2-3 inches of mulch stresses out plants.
- Too Early = Late Blooms: Mulching too early may slow how quickly the ground warms, which means you could see blooms a bit later than normal.
- Too Late = Weeds: Mulch stops weeds from germinating. If you mulch too late, it may not stop them as much.
- Check for Seeds: Some organic mulches, like pine bark and hay, may have weed seeds in it.
Pros and Cons of Rocks in the Garden
- Low Maintenance: You almost never need to replace them.
- Lower Cost: Because they’re longer lasting, it is generally less expensive to mulch with rocks.
- Fire-Proof: If you live in an area with wildfires, rocks could be better since they’re nonflammable.
- Weeds Be Gone: Rocks can keep weeds away longer.
- Wind-Resistant: Heavy rocks are great at preventing soil erosion in windy areas.
- Perfect for Rock and Cacti Gardens: Rocks are just right for these garden spaces!
- Too Hot: Rocks, especially lighter ones, raise the soil temperature, leading to stressed, thirsty plants.
- No Benefit to Plants: Rocks don’t aid plant growth or soil health.
- Messy pH: Most trees prefer acidic soil, but rocks create alkaline soil, which can hurt trees.
- Return of the Weeds: Wind will eventually blow soil between rocks, creating a spot for weeds to grow.
- No Good for Pruning: Rocks can prohibit rejuvenation pruning, creating unwieldy shrubs.
- Remove by Hand: If you want to remove stones, you must do it manually, which can be tedious!
Verdict: Organic mulch is overall better than stone. But stone is better than no mulch at all!