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What is better - mulch or gravel?

Discussion in 'Landscape Architecture and Design' started by Budman, May 13, 2003.

  1. Budman

    Budman LawnSite Member
    Messages: 65

    I'm not posting this to stir up any controversy - just trying to get some expert advice to help cut down on maintenance of my landscaped areas. Currently, I have several large landscaped areas around and in front of the house that have been covered for several years with shredded hardwood bark mulch. I am looking for something that will not require me to weed and refresh every year, but still give me a decent level of weed control and allow for good water penetration for the trees and plants in the landscape.

    A friend has recently gone with gravel in his landscaping (he calls it "boater's mulch" :D), and he advises that I remove all of the mulch and lay down black plastic before spreading the gravel. My question: wouldn't this be detrimental to the roots of the trees and other plants? Can I just lay the gravel over the existing mulch (which by this time is fairly compacted), or will I have massive weed problems?

    I have also considered just going with the large (3" or so) pine bark nuggets as a good middle ground, as I have heard that they generally do not need to be "freshened up" as often as the shredded mulch. Has anyone had experience with this?

    Anyone who would like to pipe in with an attractive, yet relatively low-maintenance covering is most welcome.

    Thanks for any tips you can provide!
  2. Green Pastures

    Green Pastures LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,457

    Mulch, especially if there are bushes that require trimming. Have you ever tried to clean out clippings from gravel? It's a pain!

    Plus mulch is a ongoing expense that the customer will pay to renew every year.
  3. AGG Lawn Maintenance

    AGG Lawn Maintenance LawnSite Senior Member
    from Elberon
    Messages: 422

    If I am reading this correctly you looking for low maintenance for your home
    Go with gravel hands down. It cost a little bit more than mulch, but considering it will last for years and years in the end its cheaper. Mulch has to be replenished a couple of times a year. So when you add that up by say 5 years it ends up running you more. Go with landscape fabric as a weed barrier.
  4. fblandscape

    fblandscape Banned
    Messages: 776

    From an economic viewpoint, gravel will be cheaper to an extent. From a horticultural viewpoint, mulch is the best.
  5. NCSULandscaper

    NCSULandscaper Banned
    Messages: 1,557

    Mulch is better than gravel. If you put gravel around your shrubs you are cutting down the amount of nutrients and organic matter that you get from applying mulch. Weeds still come through the black plastic or fabric under the gravel so then you have to weed or spray all the time.

    Shredded hardwood mulch is better than the large pine bark mulch because hardwood packs in better and stays in place alot better than pine bark nuggets. Which in turn means less weeds.
  6. mdvaden

    mdvaden LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,946

    I use both.

    Mulch generally aids drainage better, rock products cap off the soil.

    If you use a lot of gravel, you may need to modify drainage.

    Roots are backwards of leaves. Leaves make oxygen. Roots use oxygene (hence oxygen plus) and give off carbon dioxide. That's why plastic is bad - it traps the gas.

    At least use a fabric, or 2 layers, to separate the gravel and the soil.

    Gravel can seal the soil some, but it won't be a disaster.

    Either gravel or mulch get weeds.

    I no longer use nuggets. To big and nasty to clean debris, and a nightmare for future digging and additions.

    We use a fine crushed gravel referred to as 1/4 - 10, about 1/4 inch give or take. Its a dream for cleaning leaves and debris, even puts mulch to shame for cleaning. That's with a spring leaf rake.

    Also, you can always spread a 1/2 inch layer of real compost, or even certified compost, under the fabric if you use gravel.

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