Mulch vs Gravel

Old 01-30-02, 12:24 PM
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Question Mulch vs Gravel

Any input on the advantage or disadvantage of using gravel as a mulch replacement?
Old 01-30-02, 01:26 PM
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Hello JoAnn

Gravel will not break down so would not have to be replaced on a regular basis (except for what young children and animals move around), but in extremely hot and sunny locations would also absorb and retain heat, possibly to the detriment of plants growing in them and roots close to the surface.

If you are going to use pea gravel (the round, uncrushed type usually less than 1/2" in diameter), it does not lock together so would tend to move around under foot. River rock (2" - 6" diameter) and dolomite chips (the snow-white crushed stone) are quite ornamental when used properly. Different coloured clay chips can also be used, but because they are porous may act to wick moisture out of the ground in hot, sunny locations. Also, if the gravel or rock is limestone it would tend raise the pH of the soil under and immediately surrounding the area over a long period of time.

Any mulch will help keep weeds down and most help retain moisture in the soil as long as it is thick enough (although perennial weed roots will still travel thru them) but organic mulches will retain moisture better. I would also recommend putting down landscape fabric before mulching to make it's removal (if you ever have to) a lot easier.

One last thing - with any inorganic mulch, you will eventually have to think about finding a way to clean out the soil, organic debris and tree and weed seeds for both appearance and to keep the unwanted plants from germinating and growing. With wood or bark chips, you can just rake everything over to disturb germinating seeds and 'hide' the undesired stuff, but with rocks and gravel you will usually want a fresh, clean look (lots of hand picking, or washing or maybe vaccuumming... )

Lots to think about!!!


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