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 & Around Trees?

Pros & Cons Of Organic Mulch

Pros

  • Better Growth: Mulch can nearly double how fast trees and plants grow, according to this study.
  • Less Water:  Mulch improves rainwater infiltration and soil water storage and 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 reduces weed seed sprouting, so you will see fewer weeds in your beds.
  • Just the Right Temperature:  Mulch keeps soil and roots protected in the winter and cool in the summer.
  • Reduce Compaction and Erosion:  Mulch prevents soil erosion, which will be uncontrolled wherever the soil is left bare. Mulch also makes the soil more resilient against compaction. Plus, people are less likely to walk and drive on mulch, so there’s less soil compaction to begin with.

Cons

  • Annual Replacement: Depending on your mulch type, you’ll have to replace it or topdress 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 can impair water movement and decay bases of 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 well.
  • Check for Seeds:  Some organic mulches, like shredded green waste and hay, may have weed seeds in it.

Pros & Cons Of Rocks In The Garden

Pros

  • 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 in the long run.
  • Fire-Proof:  If you live in an area with wildfires, rocks provide defensible space since they’re nonflammable.
  • Weeds Be Gone:  Rocks can keep weeds away longer since seeds have difficulty germinating through them.
  • 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!

Cons

  • Too Hot: Rocks, raise the soil temperature and radiate heat long after the sun sets, leading to stressed, thirsty plants.
  • Clean-out: Litter and debris have to be cleaned out from among the rocks to maintain their appearance. This is a time-consuming task that also robs nutrients from the soil which must be replaced with fertilizer.
  • Watch the pH: Most trees prefer acidic soil, but carbonate rocks create alkaline soil, which can hurt most trees.
  • Return of the Weeds: Wind will eventually blow soil between rocks, creating a spot for weeds to grow.
  • 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 the stone is better than no mulch at all!

Ready To mulch? Learn How To Mulch Your Landscape Here!

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