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Mulch Vs. Rock: Which is Better for Landscaping

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Landscaping and taking care of your lawn needs does not only concern keeping it cut and fertilized. After taking care of those needs there is still the matter of your lawn’s prestige. The aesthetics of fresh cut grass to how well kept the shrubbery is important to the overall look of your lawn. Whether planting new trees or putting the final changes on your flower bed to help it look pristine, using mulch will help but what kind to use or is there another route available? Below it is explained why mulch is good for your lawn, the types of mulch, and the pros and cons of using them to better help fit your vision.

What is mulch? Mulch is a layer of material applied to soil that helps protect and nurture plants, saplings, or shrubbery. It is usually in the form of organic material but is not exclusively held to that as it can also be inorganic. Mulch helps promote fertility to your lawn and helps in several ways such as reducing weed growth, helping with conserving moisture for your plant’s health, and helping with the visual aspect of making your lawn look neat. The following are types of organic mulch that you can use depending on your preferences and what you think your lawn needs:

  • Wood Chips– are a great mulch as they are readily available and are very cost efficient. They are sourced from downed trees so they can easily be replaced when removed dead trees or when pruning. Wood chips are a great mulch for giving second life to green waste found around your lawn.
    • Bark Chips– bark chips are wood chips exclusively made from the ground up bark of trees such as Redwoods, Firs, or Cedar and are often regulated according to size.
    • Green Waste– is described as the byproducts of landscaping crews and is a mix of tree bark, tree limbs, leaves and waste lumber along with lawn waste. It is eco-friendly and helps by recycling resources.
    • Painted/Stained Wood chips– these wood chips are made from small pieces of lumber mill waste and contain only wood. They add a vivid scenery to your lawn, but you must also make sure they have not been treated with pesticide which could be harmful to your plants.

Another option for mulch is rock. Rock is more made of tumbled stones and is used more so for decorative purposes. Rock mulch does not break down over time as wood mulch does so there is no need to replace it. It is important to know that rock mulch does retain the ambient temperature so in hot climates they could damage roots by heating up the soil.

There are also some materials that can be harmful to your lawn and unsafe to use. Plastic sheeting is used to suppress weed growth, but it can smother the soil making it hard for oxygen and other nutrients to cycle the growth process. Landscape fabric is another material which is designed with opening to allow oxygen and moisture to help soil underneath, but it does not do anything to truly protect the soil itself. It is not a good protection against weeds, as long-term growth will eventually be pulled up when replacing potentially destroying more lawn. Lastly is recycled petroleum rubbed based mulch. This material is made from tires and other rubber like products is used as a weed suppressant but because it is difficult to gather where the material is mostly compounded of it often can be deemed toxic to soil over time. The replacement process can be difficult, and the layers could be grown around underground.         

Using mulch can obviously help your lawn by protecting your soil and providing a source of growth for saplings, flowers, and other shrubbery. Here are more pros for using mulch:

  • Better Growth– mulch doubles the time of growth for plants and trees
    • Less Water– mulch helps improve water infiltration into the soil and because of the material the water is spread out among the soil making sure there is not flooding
    • More Nutrients– as mulch breaks down it is recycled as the product to helps soil grow and stay healthy going from protector to resource.
    • Fewer Weeds– Mulch reduces weed sprouting, fewer weeds in a healthy lawn or flower bed.
    • Temperature Control– Mulch helps keep soil cool during the summer and protects roots from drying up during the winter.
    • Reduce Compaction & Erosion– Mulch reduces soil erosion and protects it from being bare. Mulch also protects soil from foot traffic making it resilient against the outside forces.

Some of the cons from using mulch happen if you are not aware of how to effectively use it as a resource. The following are just a few problems that can occur from mulch use:

  • Annual Replacement– depending on the mulch type you will have to replace the mulch every 1 to 4 years. It is a reoccurring cost and time expense
    • Too Much of a Good Thing– Too much mulch can be detrimental to your lawn’s growth. More than 2-3 inches can impair water movement which will dry out roots causing soil decay.
    • Timing– If mulch is put down too early it may slow how quickly the ground warms up after the winter. If done too late it will not stop weed seeds from germinating. Choosing when to put mulch down is a key part of tending to your lawn.

Rocks can also be used as mulch some of the pros are the following:

  • Low Maintenance– rock mulch rarely ever needs to be replaced.
    • Lower Costs– because rock much is longer lasting it is cost efficient
    • Fireproof– rock mulch is an inflammable so if you live in an area where wildfires are a possibility your lawn can be defensible.
    • Weed Deterrent– rock mulch keeps weeds away as seeds will not be able to germinate unlike organic mulch where weeds can take root.
    • Wind Resistant– heavy rocks helps prevent soil erosion, especially in windy areas.

Some of the cons of using rock mulch can also prove to be detrimental. It is important to watch out for the following if using:

  • Too Hot– rock mulch can retain temperature and radiate long after the sun has gone which can stress plants.
    • Clean-Out- must be removed by hand if needed. Litter and debris from the lawn must be cleaned out and mixed underneath rock mulch over time. It can be time consuming especially while trying to fertilize.
    • Weeds– while rock mulch helps prevent weeds from germinating to an extent the seeds will be blown around and eventually will be scattered throughout.

Overall it would seem as if organic mulch would be better off overall for your lawn in the long haul. There are other reasons to use rock mulch and if you are willing to use the work the visual aspect it can add to your lawn can be aesthetically pleasing. If you need more information on how organic mulch can help your lawn grow more healthily you can contact the experts at Sarge’s Property Management.

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