How to Use Stone as Mulch for Your Garden

stones and gravel near a flower bed
  • 1-30 hours
  • Beginner
  • 50-500
What You'll Need
Landscape fabric
Leaf vacuum
What You'll Need
Landscape fabric
Leaf vacuum

Stone is a popular inorganic mulch. There are two varieties of mulch: organic and inorganic. There are several different kinds of mulch in each of these categories. Each type of mulch has different benefits. Stone mulch stabilizes the soil and reduces erosion, while improving the appearance of the garden.

Stone mulch comes in many different colors, sizes and shapes. You can choose attributes that will be most becoming in your landscape. The stones can also act as an edge for a flower bed. This will keep the organic mulch and soil around your flowers from washing away.

Step 1 - Install Landscape Fabric

Before you begin laying your stone mulch, lay down a layer of landscape fabric where you wish your mulch to be. The fabric will help keep weeds down, though some determined weeds will grow through it. The landscape fabric will also be helpful if you ever decide you don't wish to have stone mulch, or wish to move the mulch. If you do decide to move the mulch, you can simply fold it into the fabric and move it.

Step 2 - Lay the Mulch

using rocks in landscaping

You should not lay down more than a few inches of mulch. If you add too much mulch, water can saturate the area and will not drain well. Stone mulch comes in several different colors and sizes. If you buy several batches, you may choose to alternate the color and size of the stones. This will add interest to your garden, and make it more appealing.

TIP: Karen Thurber, our gardening expert, suggests that when using stone mulch in an area that will be frequently walked, or driven on, choose an angular stone rather than a round stone. "Angular stones pack together to create a firm surface. Round stones always remain loose and will roll under your foot or vehicle."

Step 3 - Clean Stones

Stone mulch has a tendency to collect debris. Do not lay the stone under trees unless you want to continuously clean the stones. To clean the stones, use a leaf vacuum to suck up the extra debris. This will keep the area looking clean and tidy.

Step 4 - Water

You will need to keep a close eye on how much water your plants are receiving. You do not want them to drown, or to become dehydrated. Stick your finger into the soil around the base of the plant. If the surrounding soil is damp, you do not need to water the plants right away. However, if the soil is dry, give your plants a good amount of water. Because stone does not leave nutrients in the soil, you will need to fertilize your plants periodically.

Step 5 - Deal with Weeds

weeds growing out of space between pavers

While stone mulch will suppress weeds, it will not stop them completely. Pull weeds as soon as you see them. This will prevent them from propagating. Pull up as much root as possible, although this may be difficult with the landscape fabric.

Stone mulch is an attractive, permanent feature in your garden. Proper care will keep it, and your garden, looking good.

TIP: Karen notes: "Some stone mulches contain limestone and should not be used around acid-loving plants."