If you’ve followed along with our blog for any length of time (or you’ve worked with us), you know that when it comes down to landscape, we’ve got a lot to say. Like, a lot to say.
So, it should come as no surprise that when it comes to the infamous rocks vs mulch debate that all landscapers know, love, and take a strong stance on, we’ve got a lot to say.
But maybe not in the way you’d think.
This blog post isn’t actually going to be a pick-a-side type of deal. Why? Because as experienced landscapers, we recognize the benefits of both rocks and mulch within your unique landscape. In fact, we don’t believe that you have to pick rocks or mulch—heck, if both make sense in your landscape, why not include them both tactfully? (But that’s another topic for another blog).
All that to say, you’ve stumbled upon the epic rocks vs mulch hallmark piece that you’ve been looking for—our Rocks vs Mulch Guide. Here, we’ll break down pros, cons, talk specifics, and even answer a few of your burning rock and mulch questions (because, c’mon, we’ve all got at least a few of those on our minds—we can’t be the only ones).
If you’re an observant person who’s always taking note of a good-looking landscape, it’s probably not a stretch that you’ve noticed in most well-tamed, meticulous, and well-designed lawns and landscapes you’ll find there’s typically a touch of something special—rocks or mulch.
While it’s safe to say that this kind of landscaping feature certainly makes for a gorgeous look, implementing these landscaping tools does a lot more than just adding a beautiful finishing touch and glorious texture to your landscape’s aesthetics.
In fact, rocks and mulch can help to provide specific functions that could help your flower beds, trees, and lawn thrive and function to the best of its potential.
With 150 years of combined experience and countless landscapes reimagined and maintained, we’ve established techniques, procedures, and formats for using mulch and rock, have determined when to use each, and can even advise on when to use both!
Check out what we’ve got to say about mulch and rocks below, read on the advantages of each, and open your mind to the power of these landscaping tools!
Let’s Talk Rocks
We’re not going to wait until we’re five paragraphs deep before we say it—we know what you’re thinking. If you’re currently thinking something like “small rocks are terribly annoying” because they get in the way of your mower, make for uneven terrain in your lawn, and they mess up your soil, then know this—we definitely feel that.
But hear us out—when we’re talkin’ rocks, we’re not talking about those teeny, tiny pebbles that infiltrate your landscape and cause all kinds of trouble. We’re talking about large rocks that can help line your landscape, add natural beauty, and even act as a nutrition retainer for some of your plants and landscape sections.
And sure, that sounds pretty simple. But when you think about it—really think about it, that is—we’re sure there are tons and tons of questions about rocks that pop into your head. How do you use them? Where do you put them? How do you care for them—do you care for them? What kind of benefits do these rocks really have for my landscape?
Having questions is totally normal—we used to have questions, too! But we’ve been working with rocks for a long (long) time. Now, we’re here to share all of that knowledge with you to help you build your rock knowledge foundation.
Benefits of Rocks
First things first, what are the real benefits of rocks, anyway?
- For starters, rocks are great at strangling weeds and preventing them from growing in the first place, so if you’re dealing with a weed issue, consider adding a layer of rocks in that area. Rocks are wind-resistant, too, because they’re so heavy – this can help solve soil erosion issues if you live in a particularly windy area.
- Do you live in an area with hot temperatures and dangerous wildfires? Rocks are fireproof! You won’t have to worry about them being a flammable issue, and they can really help to give your landscape that desert-and-cacti-look (if that’s something you appreciate in a landscape).
- The best thing about rocks is that they’re both incredibly low maintenance and incredibly low cost, meaning, not only will you not have to take care of them, you won’t have to deal with replacing them because they’re so long-lasting!
- Larger rocks can also act as environmentally friendly retaining walls, keeping landslides back, holding plants off from the road, and keeping people away from landscaping, too.
Possible Cons of Rocks
What we’re not going to do is feed you all the positives about rocks without mentioning some of the potential negatives. Because hey, we’re not here to sugar coat anything, we’re just here to help you figure out the best possible solution for you and your landscape—and that involves making sure you know what’s good and what’s potentially bad about your groundcover choices.
While rocks might sound like the end-all-be-all of landscaping, but just like anything in life, there are a few negatives you’ll need to weigh, too.
- Rocks are heat conductors and they’ll definitely be hot – that means you can’t be walking around on your rock-lawn barefoot lest you’re prepared to deal with the burn. More than that, though, this can lead to super thirsty plants because the rocks might raise the temperature of the surrounding soil.
- Further, rocks can mess with the pH of the soil as they create an alkaline soil – typically, plants go for more of an acidic soil.
- What’s worse is that stones can’t be removed super easily—you’ll likely have to do this by hand, so if you’re not certain that you want your rocks to stay in your landscape for a good amount of time, it’s probably best to keep them out of your plans.
How to Use Rocks in Your Landscape
Consider using rocks in areas that have high wind risk – because they’re so heavy and stable, you’ll be able to prevent soil erosion from happening by placing rocks on the soil. Further, you can use rocks as retaining walls if you want to keep people and animals out of special areas, like a beautiful (but delicate) garden.
If you’re dealing with an exceptional weed issue, rocks can be the solution here, too – simply place a variety of rocks in that particular area and sit back to watch the weeds die out.
Looking for some stellar rock recommendations? You’re in luck. We’ve got an entire blog post dedicated to some truly premium rock choices! No matter what you’re using your rocks for, why you want them, or what your end-all-be-all goal for your landscape is, we’ve got a great rock suggestion for you right here!
Check out our rock options post now!
Rock FAQ: All the Rock Questions You’ve Been Dying to Ask
- Are Rocks Better Groundcover Options Than Living Groundcover?: It all depends on what you’re looking for! Living groundcover can be a great choice (we have a few fave options right here, actually), but if you’re requiring something super low-maintenance, virtually effort-free, and that adds a little extra texture to your space, we urge you to consider rocks.
- How Will Rocks Help With Bugs?: Unlike mulch, wood, and living groundcover, rocks will not attract a bunch of bugs that are drawn to decaying matter.
- Do I Need to Deal With Decomposition Issues?: Nope! Rocks don’t decay like other living groundcovers, so you don’t need to worry about decomposing organic matter.
- Can I Hire Someone to Manage My Rock Installation & Maintenance?: You sure can! That’s actually one of the services we offer at Landcrafters—we’d be happy to chat with you about how we can help!
Much About Mulch
You see mulch almost every day. It’s used to line gardens, give off a neat, tidy appearance, and help to retain moisture. But what are all the benefits of mulch, and better yet, how can you use mulch correctly to help your landscape thrive and prosper?
We’ve got all the mulch answers here for you!
Mulch Musts—The Mulch Pros
So, what makes mulch a prime choice? We’ve got you covered. Check out a few reasons why mulch could be an excellent option for your landscape.
- A nice layer of mulch in your landscape is a great option if you’re looking to help your soil retain moisture and nutrients. This is a wonderful hack for people who live in environments where the soil might be problematic (sound like Florida to you?).
- Further, mulch is a great choice because it helps to keep weeds away by blocking the sunlight they need in order to prosper and sprout up.
- Even better, they can help protect plants and soil in those random, Florida freezes. In other words, neither the sun’s scorches or winter’s frozen fingers will reach your soil and roots.
- More than that, mulch just looks tidy and well-tended. If you’re lacking some composure in a few areas of your landscape, consider adding a layer of mulch to bring everything together – there are dozens of options when it comes to texture and color, so you’ll be able to pick the right one for you!
- Even as mulch decomposes, it’s breaking down and helping to fertilize your soil, so no matter what stage of life your mulch is in, it’s doing good work for your landscape and garden.
Why Mulch Might Be Tricky—A Few Mulch Cons
Like we said about the rocks, there’s always going to be a few negatives to weigh in your decision, and mulch is no exception.
- With mulch, you’ll need to deal with replacing every year as it breaks down – in other words, it’s a reoccurring cost, in both terms of time and expense.
- There is such a thing as too much mulch, too, so you’ll need to be extremely careful with how thick of a layer the mulch is.
- Mulching also requires good timing – too late and you’ll have weeds because you won’t be able to stop them quickly, and too early and you’ll have to deal with late blooms that are slowed by the soil temperatures.
- You can, in fact, over mulch your landscape (for real, it’s a thing! Check out our post about it right here).
- The beautiful part about mulch negatives is that they don’t have to be. Sure, mulching can be a bit complex and might require a bit of care, but with mulching services from certified professionals, you’re able to reap all the benefits of mulch without having to deal with the mulch negatives. In other words, experts can help you take those minor mulch issues and erase them altogether!
How to Implement Mulch in Your Landscape
Mulch is a great choice for landscapes that struggle to retain moisture in their soil, as well as have too much exposure to the hot, Florida sun. It keeps your soil at just the right temperature no matter what the external factors are.
Additionally, if you’re just planting beds, looking to line trees, or want to implement texture in your landscape, mulch is a fabulous choice.
Unkempt lawns and landscapes will undoubtedly benefit from mulch, as well as untidy garden areas – a thin layer of mulch can help to straighten up and neaten even the messiest of areas!
Looking for some mulch options that will elevate your landscape? We thought you might. That’s why we’ve created a blog post right here for some prime mulch suggestions!
Mulch FAQS: All Those Burning Questions
- What’s Mulch Have That Rocks Don’t?: Essentially, mulch brings about a ton of advantages that rocks can’t—mulch doesn’t create as hot of an environment that a bed rocks can, mulch doesn’t require a fabric weed barrier the way rocks do (if you want to avoid weeds poking up between them), and rocks need edging. Mulch, however, is a much easier, more natural look that overall will provide the neat, tidy look you’re going for.
- Is Mulch More Cost-Effective?: In most cases, you better believe it. Rocks look amazing and they’re low-maintenance for sure (which, can help when it comes to being cost-effective in the long-run). But mulch is going to be much more affordable from the start.
- Will Mulch Encourage Plant Growth?: That depends. While it’s true that some flowers won’t thrive in beds mulched with rocks (don’t worry, plenty of plants and study flowers can), mulch does seem to help create a milder, easier to acclimate environment.
Ready to talk rocks? More excited to gush over mulch? Either way, we’re so glad to be here to help. We hope that our ode to rocks and mulch was both helpful and exciting to read.
After all, at Landcrafters, we strive to not just set up a gorgeous landscape for you but provide you with the tools and resources to keep it up to your standards! If you’re ready for gorgeous groundcover ideas, want to chat about rock or mulch design for your landscape, or are simply looking for some seriously stellar maintenance, we’ve got you covered!
If you’re interested in reading up on more of our insights, advice, and tips, check out our weekly blog that features regular updates!
Want to get notified when Landcrafters posts new blog posts about landscaping trends and the ways you can enhance your green area yourself?