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Old 05-17-2010, 06:02 PM   #1
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Gravel vs. Mulch???


I have a 3' x 75' section around my fence line that needs to be planted in my backyard. I intend on using various shrubs and flowers. It will be watered by a drip system.

My question is what type of mulch lasts the longest? It doesn't appeal to me to have to replace it yearly. I'm sort of inclined to use small river rock instead so I won't ever have to do it again. Is this bad for the plants or drip system. Are there any other drawbacks of using rock instead of mulch??

Last edited by mopowers; 05-17-2010 at 11:41 PM.
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Old 05-17-2010, 09:27 PM   #2
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Rock wont decompose and add organic matter to the soil, they dont stop weeds from growing either. I put rock down and regret it, also they sink into the soil and it needs to be added to after a few years.


Any type of hardwood mulch last fairly long. Pine bark and pine straw are used around here as well. pine straw breaks down really easy though in sun. pine bark lasts the longest but floats and seems to attract roaches. I use the free hardwood mulch chipped by the city. call your local gov't if they trim the trees from the power lines, they deliver and dump in my area for free.

looks for some time of hardwood mulch in a bag otherwise (redwood, pine, cypress, etc.)

Last edited by frito; 05-18-2010 at 01:27 AM.
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Old 05-17-2010, 11:46 PM   #3
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I've already laid down some weed fabric to keep the weeds down. I figured the gravel would stay looking nice for a longer perdiod of time than the mulch.

How do you feel about the recycled rubber mulch that looks like bark mulch??
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Old 05-18-2010, 01:26 AM   #4
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I like organic material that helps my plants. weedfabric works OK at first but over times it collects debris and creates a nice layer of top soil on top of it that the weeds grow in just fine. the weeds seem to pull easy out of this though.

the rubber mulch isnt for me or my plants. it works good for a childrens playground and stuff like that. Nothing beats real mulch that breaths and gives organics back into the soil.

Would a farmer use old rubber tires or rocks on his crops?
Nature isnt conforming as humans want it to be, weeds will grow, they have a purpose in 'fixing' the soil.

get an organic mulch material the plants will behappier in the long run and if the plants you are growing are happier they will out compete the weeds and you will have less in the long run.
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Old 05-18-2010, 03:38 AM   #5
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A few layers of newspaper or red rosin paper underneath your mulch helps

tremendously with weeds , far better than landscaping cloth.
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Old 05-18-2010, 06:25 AM   #6
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Even with weed barrier and stone mulch you will get weeds. Organic Debris will accumulate in the stone and help the weed seeds to germinate. The roots of the weeds will go into the weed barrier- it's a pain to pull weeds. You'll need to remove the stone for cleaning every 3-4 years.

Rubber mulch is horrible- it smells bad, looks bad, and gets hot. Use stone if you don't want an organic mulch.

Organic mulch and weed barrier is a bad combination. Weeds will still grow in the mulch, just making it more difficult to remove the weeds.
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Old 05-18-2010, 10:02 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mopowers View Post
I've already laid down some weed fabric to keep the weeds down.
IMHO, you need to rip that stuff up NOW!!!

In the short term, weed fabric is great. But in the long term, it sucks.

For starters, if you place an organic mulch on top of the weed fabric, the mulch will break down and effectively create a new soil layer on TOP of the weed fabric, and weeds will sprout in the new soil. At the same time, roots from the plants below will grow looking for water and find ways to grow through the weed fabric and make it nearly impossible to remove or replace at some point in the future.

From what I understand, rather than using weed block with a thin layer of mulch on top (what I've seen most people do), the proper way to prevent weeds with mulch is to mulch DEEP (like 6"). The idea I believe is to increase the distance between soil and sunlight making it more difficult for newly germinated weed seeds from growing. Plus, without a weed fabric, you can better work fertilizers in with a hoe, as well as till a little bit of the soil to get rid of the weeds that do manage to grow despite the mulch.
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Old 05-18-2010, 10:50 AM   #8
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Weeds can grow in anything given the right conditions
New weed fabric will block (most) existing weeds from growing thru
Eventually it does break down

I have some out back (large area) that a prior owner installed probably 8-10 years ago
Anything that grows on top usually still can't penetrate the barrier
As a result the weeds can't get a deep root system & are easily removed
They used the weed barrier, then eventually (same time?) put pea stone over it
I've removed quite a bit of the pea stone & mulched the area now

I have bigger rocks piled up that border my pool cabana
I'm pulling all the rocks out, putting down strips form a rubber truck truck bed
Then I'm putting the rocks back on top



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Old 05-18-2010, 11:04 AM   #9
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I guess I was a little unclear.

The reason I put the weed fabric down last year was because I knew it was going to be a while until I planted the shrubs and flowers. It has worked perfectly.

My main question was what other differences are there between bark as mulch and using rock to cover the surface of the dirt around the plants? I realize the rock doesn't add nutrients to the soil. Is that the only difference?

I'm not worried about weeds. I just don't want to have to replace 3 yards of mulch every year. Are there any other alternatives that will last longer than a year.

I'm shooting for a low maintenance planter.
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Old 05-18-2010, 05:38 PM   #10
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To some degree it depends on the plants and the site. Generally speaking, mulch's purpose is to regulate temperature and moisture, with erosion control a common side benefit. Rock will absorb heat and reflect it. That may be good or bad, depending on the situation. Rocks can get in the yard and you hit them with the mower. May or may not be applicable in your case. Personally, as a landscape professional, I like to keep things as natural as possible. If you are growing plants that like a seaside or mediteranean climate, rock should be fine. Otherwise, I would stick with organics.

Quote:
From what I understand, rather than using weed block with a thin layer of mulch on top (what I've seen most people do), the proper way to prevent weeds with mulch is to mulch DEEP (like 6").
Respectfully submitted, you understand incorrectly. It also depends on what type of mulch. Four to six inches of pine straw is good. Two inches of bark or wood chips if enough. Remember never to pile mulch against the trunk or main stem.
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Old 05-19-2010, 03:45 PM   #11
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Thanks for the input downunder. I'm mainly planting shrubs and other assorted perennial flowers (privets, euonyms, daisies, gardenias, azaleas. Since the ground is mostly clay to begin w/, it would be better to use organic mulch instead of gravel.

Does anyone have any ideas how much a yard of redwood bark mulch weighs? Could I use my Dakota to haul a yard of mulch?
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Old 05-19-2010, 08:24 PM   #12
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I totally agree with thick mulch. It is used to hold moisture and suppress weeds. I never go less than 4 inches and usually top dress every year. If it takes three yards to do your job then next year it should only take one to topdress and regain your asthetics. I like a triple ground pine myself. A standard 8 ft. pick up bed will usually hold 2 yards of hardwood mulch even with the bed rails. One yard in your smaller truck should be fine. Remember mulch is like cars everyone has their own preferences and ideas. Also I say no for weed fabric. I like to make watering bowls around trees and shrubs. You don't want to bury the trunk so bowl it out using the mulch. This helps with watering as well. many times when the mulch becomes thatch like it will shed water.
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Old 05-19-2010, 08:36 PM   #13
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Dakota should handle it
I've mulched once in 4 years
I prefer to fill in the gardens & plant ground phlox
Once stuff grows in ground is covered







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Old 05-20-2010, 11:15 AM   #14
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Are there any advantages of using bagged mulch over bulk from a rock yard??
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Old 05-20-2010, 04:59 PM   #15
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Generally cheaper by the yard instead of the bag.
Bagged mulch around here goes for 3 bags for 10 bucks usually.
That's about 6 cubic ft of mulch.
So for a yard of mulch your looking at $45
A yard of hardwood mulch at my landscape yard cost $24 retail.
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