Bark mulch and rock mulch are two very popular choices for mulching your garden. Both can be effective as mulch, and they each have their pros and cons – your choice may come down to your personal preference, the plants you grow in your garden beds, or your budget.
So, which is best for you? It’s time for a mulch face-off, rock mulch vs. bark, as the two mulches go head to head. Read on as we help you make your choice.
Bark Mulch Pros vs. Rock
Bark mulch is very easy to install, even in large amounts, so it’s great if you’re taking on a landscaping project all by yourself. It’s also a great choice if improving soil quality is a priority; organic mulch decays over time, adding organic matter and nutrients and encouraging an increase in helpful microbes. By improving the soil, it can lead to better and healthier plants and trees.
Another reason bark and organic mulches are a favorite for gardeners is that they have greater weed prevention benefits when compared to rock mulches. This is because bark mulch is much finer and is applied in layers, so it’s much less likely to host weeds or even allow weed seeds to germinate in the first place.
Wood chips and bark make excellent mulch ground cover as they keep the soil underneath at a consistent temperature because of the way they conserve heat. Warm in the winter and cooler in the summer, bark mulches maintain a year-round average soil temperature. Bark holds water for longer and is better at preventing evaporation.
Finally, bark mulch is much less expensive than rock mulch in its initial outlay, which may be a factor if you are gardening on a budget!
So, to sum up, bark mulch is better if you’re looking for mulch that:
- Is low cost
- Improves soil quality
- Prevents the growth of weeds more effectively
- Increases the growth rate of plants and trees
- Helps keep your soil at a consistent temperature all year round
Rock Mulch Pros vs. Bark
Unlike organic mulch materials, which will decay over time, you only need to lay stone mulch once. Stones might cost more initially, but they won’t blow away or decompose over time.
It’s not just about saving time. Rock is an excellent choice if you live in an area that’s prone to problematic weather. Strong winds can not only send bark mulch all over your lawn but can also cause soil erosion – rocks can help prevent this. Rocks are also a better choice if you live in an area prone to forest fires as bark is highly flammable.
Rocks also allow for better drainage and water evaporation. There’s a huge variety to choose from, all with different water drainage capabilities. Whether it’s pea gravel, lava rock, river rock, or quartz, there’ll be a type of landscaping rock to suit you. Any good mulch landscape supplier will be able to advise you on the perfect landscaping gravel or rock for your flower beds.
Finally, although rocks can cost more, there are also plenty of opportunities to pick them up for free – providing you don’t need too many. A supply of river rocks, beach rocks, and everyday stones from your garden mean that landscaping with rock doesn’t have to cost you a fortune – you don’t have to spend money on expensive landscaping rock if you don’t want to.
All in all, you might want to invest in rock mulch if:
- you’re after a one-time job, requiring no replacing over time
- you’re in an area that gets a lot of wind
- you live somewhere prone to fires or high heat
- you need better water drainage in your soil
- you want to avoid attracting termites
Can You Put Rocks Over Bark Mulch?
We can see where you’re coming from. Why not double up on the mulch type and get twice the benefits? Weed growth won’t stand a chance!
Well, it’s essentially pointless. You’ll pay for bark mulch underneath, then once you’ve let the rock mulch sit on top, the bark will decay, and you’ll be left with rock mulch after all. It’s best to choose one or the other.
Rock vs. mulch. Which one will you choose?
After weighing up the pros and cons of each type, you should now have a good idea of the best kind of mulch to use in your landscape design. Whichever option you choose, you’ll be preventing weed growth, reducing soil erosion, and improving the landscaping and look of your garden.