Which is better for my flower beds, organic mulch, rubber mulch or stone?

This is a question we get frequently, so we've decided to post the pros & cons of using mulch & the pros & cons of using stone.  Also, we've included the pros & cons in using different size stones.

Pros & Cons of Organic Mulch

Pros of Using Organic Mulch

  • Organic Mulch can help trees & plants grow faster than stone.

  • Because mulch reduces water evaporation you don't need to water your plants as much.

  • Mulch adds nutrients to your soil as it breaks down, so you don't need to buy plant food and nutreints each season.  These nutrients are crucial for your plants to thrive.

  • Mulch will help keep your plants warm in the cooler temperatures and in the winter

Cons of Using Organic Mulch

  • You will need to replace your mulch every year because it does breakdown and eventually disappear.  Because of this it becomes a recurring expense & takes time.

  • Organic mulch will usually carry weed seeds in it.  You must use a weed preventer every 3 months with mulch to prevent the weeds from sprouting in your mulch.  This is something you can sprinkle over your mulch & find at home depot or online.

  • If you mulch too early the ground may not warm up as quickly in the spring and your flower blooms will bloom much later than they should in the season.

Pros & Cons of Rubber Mulch

Pros of Using Rubber Mulch

  • Rubber Mulch provides better insulation form heat than organic mulch does.

  • Rubber Mulch is not organic , so it is unattractive to insects. They won't build nests or gnaw on it like they will with organic mulch.

  • It is non-porous & won't absorb water, so rubber mulch discourages weed & fugus growth.

  • Because rubber mulch is man made it offers more colors & can compliment more landscape elements.  The coloring in rubber mulch will last up to 10 years unlike organic mulch that loses color quickly.

  • Rubber mulch is more expensive in the beginning, but will cover 2x the area organic mulch will.  A 1 1/2 inch area is comparable in effectiveness to 3 inches of organic mulch.

  • It deteriorates extremely slowly, so you don't need to top it off annually & is a low maintenance. It is more expensive up front, but will save you time & money in the long run.

  • Rubber mulch is heavier than organic mulch, so it stays in doesn't displace easily or run off with water in the rain

  • Rubber mulch is environmentally friendly because it is made from recycled tiers, so it prevents landfilling & requires no tree sacrifices.

  • Rubber mulch is beneficial especially in playgrounds, it can provide a nice cushioning for children & doesn't cause splinters like organic mulch can.

Cons of Using Rubber Mulch

  • Because rubber mulch isn't organic it doesn't decompose & because it doesn't decompose it doesn't provide the soil & plants with nutrients & food.

  • Rubber mulch contains chemical residues that can harm the plants. The most common chemical is Zinc. You must be careful and be aware of the chemicals that already exist in your soil. We recommend doing a soil test before deciding to use Rubber mulch. This can be done easily by many landscaping companies & well as some lawn care supply stores.  Zinc becomes toxic with plants when your soil contains too much of it, so if your soil has small levels of zinc, rubber mulch shouldn't hurt your plants, but on the other hand if you have high levels of zinc already in your soil, it's not a good idea to use the rubber mulch.

  • Even though there are many natural colors that rubber mulch can come in it still doesn't look or feel organic..

Pros & Cons of 3/4"Decorative Stone

Pros of Using 3/4" Stone

  • Smaller stone such as 3/4" stone are durable & long living.

  • It's eco friendly & sustainable.

  • Stone can be used with organic mulch & other difference compositions.

  • Stones are Fire-Proof.

  • Stones may be more expensive at first, but you almost never need to replace them.  You may need to wash them or top them off every 3 to 5 years, but never annually.

  • Stones are great for protecting soil against erosion & washing out.

  • Stones can protect your landscape beds form weeds longer than mulch will.

Cons of Using Rubber Mulch

  • Small stones can be washed out from heavy rain.

  • It is difficult to remove any type of dead leaves, weeds or litter from the landscaping bed that has stones in it.

  • It is extremely difficult to remove the stone if you ever want to get rid of it. Very time consuming & can be expensive to hire someone to remove it.

  • Small stones make it difficult to remove & plant new plants., flowers & bushes.

Pros & Cons of 1 1/2" or large Decorative Stone

Pros of Using 1 1/2" or Large Stone

(pros & cons are very similar than 3/4" stones,, here are a couple of the differences).

  • Unlike the smaller stones, larger stones will almost never move because of their weight.

  • Unlike the smaller stones, it is harder for weed seeds to get into the crevasses , so it's harder for weeds to grow.

Cons of Using 1 1/2" or Large Stone

  • Because the bigger stones are heavier, they will put more weight on your plants and stress them more than using the smaller stones.

Now that's you've heard about big & small stones, let's talk about the different materials that make up the stones.

River Rocks & Stones

In large flower beds that require you to walk through them in order to work, river rock’s round, smooth edges and surface is ideal. However, river rock does not pack down well due to its shape. It does provide good drainage and is an attractive rock to use in or around your flower beds. River rock for flower beds is available in sizes that range from 3/8 to 2-1/2 inches. Most river rock is available in shades of grey or brown and is ideal for creating a pathway through your flowerbed, providing you a place to step without crushing your plants. River rock also makes a stunning compliment to flower beds lining the exterior of modern homes, and it combines well with ornamental grasses and colorful plants.

Lava Rocks & Stones

 Lava rock, also called volcanic rock, forms on the outside of volcanoes from lava flows. It has a porous texture due to the holes that form as gases escape the lava as it cools. Lava rock has a deep red-brown color once it has oxidized and it is lightweight and irregularly shaped. It is available in sizes ranging from 3/4 to 1-1/4 inch. It blends well around brick homes due to its red-brown color, but is also available in gray and black. Because lava rock is so light, additional layers must be added periodically to maintain the thickness of your groundcover. Lava rock’s porous texture makes it an ideal rock for flower beds in areas where moisture might be an issue, such as near downspouts or at the base of sloped areas.

Pea Gravel

Pea gravel is not as small as a pea, but resembles a pea shape. It is similar in size to crushed gravel, with a smooth, rounded surface, like river rock. Pea gravel is available in a range of colors and is ideal for use as a decorative stone in or around flower beds and as mulch. Because of its light weight, pea gravel can be laid around flowers and foliage, and it’s also commonly used as a base material to ensure adequate drainage in potted plants.

Granite

Crushed or chipped granite provides a colorful way to highlight your flower beds that is virtually maintenance free. This flower bed rock is ideal for weed suppression and is available in a range of colors including gold and pink. Granite is a more expensive option than standard gravel, but the many color options provides more flexibility in terms of matching your flower beds or your home’s exterior.

Chipped Marble

Made from fragments of marble, white marble chips add sparkle and shimmer to your flower beds. Marble chips are decorative, and range in size from 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch. If you have acid-loving plants, do not use this type of rock in your flower bed. It changes the pH in the soil, neutralizing it, which may be problematic for these plants & consist of calcium carbonate & will usually consist of other minerals such as quartz, graphite, pyrite & iron oxides.

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