Rock vs Mulch Landscaping: Which one to Choose?

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You’ve decided to cut corners and do your own landscaping in your garden – good! Landscapers often charge ridiculous prices for jobs you could have easily done on your own if you had only known how easy they were to complete. Be sure to check out this handy guide here for hints, tips, and recommendations that will help you become your own D.I.Y. landscaper.

One imperative decision you’ll have to make when landscaping is what material to use when adding the finishing touches to your flower beds and shrubbery – rock or mulch? Both options have their pros and cons, so read on to find out what we’ve determined is the best choice for all budding landscapers!

How Much Do They Cost?

Rock may appear to be a slightly higher expense when comparing price. The asking price, on average, is between $1.50 and $3.00 per square foot, but it is important to remember that rock is a one-time purchase and does not need to be regularly replaced, as it does not decay over time. For this reason, it could also be argued that rock is extremely low maintenance. Once it’s laid, it stays there.

For this reason, rock is the best option from an economical standpoint.

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Mulch, on the other hand, decays over time and will need to be replaced at least annually to keep your landscape looking fresh and neat. It is less expensive to buy, though, costing between $0.70 and $0.80 per square foot on average. However, having to pay for more mulch annually is definitely going to surpass what you would pay for rock.

Variety of Styles and Textures

Of course, rock is available in a plethora of styles, including river rock, lava rock, granite, quartz rock, and more. These styles are also available in a variety of textures, colors, sizes, and shapes. This gives you much more choice when it comes to rock, as you could even choose a rock color that reflects the color of nearby flowers or the overall theme of your garden.

Unfortunately, you can’t get as creative with mulch. Although you might find slightly different shades and textures, the variety is only slight, and most bark mulch will appear the same – bland colors, especially when damp. Mulch does, however, create a more natural look to your garden, which is good if that’s the kind of style you are going for. However, this look is limited and doesn’t reflect the hard work you’ve put into landscaping your garden.

Overall, we would say rock definitely has a style advantage over mulch, and first-time landscapers are sure to get much more enjoyment out of being creative with the variety of rock that is available.

The Benefit to the Garden

Mulch helps keep the temperatures of flower beds, shrubbery, and the area around the base of trees to a minimum, especially in the summer. This is good for the fauna, as it prevents them from getting stressed and also helps retain water, as no water is evaporated and lost through excessive heat. One foot of mulch can store up to 3.5 inches of water at one time – that’s a huge resource for your plant life!

On the other hand, rock retains heat, which ultimately heats up the surrounding soil to temperatures that can be detrimental to your plant life. This is bad because this level of heat could evaporate the required water level that your plants need to survive, which puts them under a lot of unnecessary pressure. Heated soil could also create complications for the roots.

To further display its benefits, mulch fits better into the natural cycle of breaking down leaves, bark, and sticks. It also benefits the decomposition process, which, in turn, benefits plant life.

The mulch itself breaks down, which aids in the fertilization process. As mulch breaks down, it also contributes unique nutrients and vitamins that can give your plants a much-needed boost. Rocks do not break down and do not assist in the fertilization process in any way.

Mulch also helps reduce weeds due to its lighter texture and the fact that it becomes layered more fully. Meanwhile, rocks have many gaping holes between them, which almost acts to encourage weeds. Weeds could prove harmful to your plants and saddles you with the extra job of weeding your flower beds and shrubbery.

Overall, mulch contributes more to the overall health of your garden and plant life than rocks.

Laying Down and Maintenance

Rock is much heavier than mulch, so it can be a slightly more strenuous task to lay down rocks. Mulch is more lightweight and can be carried around and manipulated with a shovel or rake, which makes landscaping with mulch a much easier task.

As mentioned earlier, rock requires very little maintenance after it is set down. However, it does require regular weeding and additional sweeping and cleaning to clear away debris to avoid the proliferation of weeds. Mulch requires very little attention once it has been laid. Plus, very few weeds can grow through the mulch.

However, given how lightweight mulch is, it may be easily blown away by the wind or washed away by the rain. This could mean additional cleaning measures may be required with mulch, particularly if you live in an area with those types of weather conditions. Rocks are heavy and are therefore sturdy enough to stay in their place through all kinds of weather.

Conclusion – Rock vs Mulch Landscaping

As we’ve assessed, both rock and mulch have an almost equal number of pros and cons, which renders it difficult to determine what the ultimate landscaping material is.

Although rock does have economical and varietal advantages, we would say that mulch should be the choice for budding landscapers who are more concerned with the overall health and wellbeing of their garden than how it looks.

Mulch provides great nutrients for plant life, keeps the soil hydrated, and keeps weeds to a minimum – to that end, mulch is the best choice for landscapers.

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