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Using Gravel as Mulch (The Pros and Cons Explained)

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Using gravel as mulch can benefit plants whether they are landscaped or planted in a pot. Gravel or stone can also bring a modern look to plants while at the same time increasing property value.

When used as mulch, gravel can prevent soil erosion, loss of moisture, and unwanted weeds from around plants. Gravel should be applied 2†from around the base of the plant at a depth of 1 – 2 inches. Gravel or rocks should not be packed down as they will settle naturally over time.

In this article, we will explain the pros and cons of using gravel as mulch and what you can expect when using it.

When mulching you can use this mulch barrier that we use from amazon which is durable and gives a clean finish. You can find it by clicking here.

The Benefits of Using Gravel as Mulch:

Using gravel as mulch

Gravel Mulch maintains soil moisture, represses weeds, and gives a finished look to planting beds, and as it is fireproof, it is used around the buildings as a band.

The loss of moisture from the soil is one of the abiotic factors that create barren land. 

The presence of weeds is responsible for the loss of water in soil. 

Gravel Mulches can potentially reduce weed infestation, evaporation and enhance the percolation and retention rate of soil.  

It doesn’t wash away in a downpour or any unfavorable climatic condition, and it gives a beautiful look to the areas where it is used. 

The inorganic gravel mulch can better conserve the soil water as compared to synthetic and barren soil.

Moreover, it can also help gardeners by reducing the frequency of plant irrigation.

The material used in mulching works as a protector of soil from wind and water erosion by reducing the compaction of soil responsible for the reduction in growth and development of plants by affecting the roots of crops.

In addition to this, gravel mulch also maintains the temperature of soil by covering the soil’s surface, which is very necessary for the better growth of crops.

There are many great gravel and rock options for mulching out there but I have found these polished white rocks from amazon are great value for money and adds a touch of modern to any plant or garden.
You can find it by clicking here.

Plants Best Suited for Gravel Mulch:

It is often used around the trees such as:

  • Shrubs and 
  • Drought-resistant sub-shrubs, such as Sage or Lavender. 
  • Lilly bed Citrus trees.

They are also used around the buildings:

  • The heat is radiated back out after the sunsets, helping to regulate the heat of the property.
  • This radiation process helps to get rid of excess moisture under the property by evaporation.
  • It’s material used for landscape driveways, walking paths, and flower beds.

Mulch Depth When Using Gravel as Mulch: 

The depth of the mulch is dependent on the mulching substrate, and for various types of gravel, the depth is as follows: 

  • Mulch and gravel under 1-1/2†in size should be 1 – 1.5†deep.
  • Gravel 1-1/2†to 2†will need to be 2†deep.
  • 2†to 4†gravel can just be placed on top of the soil.

Keep in mind that this is to provide total coverage and so one cannot see the landscape fabric through the gaps in gravel. 

One needs to take the total square footage and divide it by one of the factors to calculate the total cubic yards of material to order.

stone mulch in potted plant (1)

Types of Mulching Gravel or Rocks:

Gravel and Rock are two popular types of inorganic mulches. They differ in size and properties, but landscaping professionals use all kinds to keep crops in good shape and prevent soil erosion.

Rock Mulch:

  • The ornamental pebbles or stones that act as a decorative ground cover on flower beds, around tree bases, firepits, gardens, pools, ponds, and a host of other applications are none other than rock mulches.
  • However, there are some disadvantages: 
    • Cost
    • Difficulty in removing 
    • Poor temperature regulation 
  • The cost should be considered while using rock mulches as perennials and landscaping areas need regular renovations, so it is difficult to remove them.
  • Rock mulch does not retain moisture which is the reason why fungal growth is very minimal. Another benefit is that it does not need much maintenance.
  • Rock mulch is also a good choice for usage on a property because if one has drainage issues, rock is an excellent mulch choice, allowing mulch to drain quickly.

    Rocks are an easy, no maintenance option if you have open bed area without plants. Rocks are also excellent for high-traffic areas, where pedestrians tend to take shortcuts.
  • One must keep in mind the harmful effects of the rock mulch, such as compaction, which destroys air pockets required for the roots to grow. 

The rocks also add no nutrients to the soil. Although all mulches protect plants from various factors, the jagged edges of rock mulch can cause harm to tender bark.

Gravel Mulch:

The composition of crushed gravel, stone gravel, and pea gravel are examples of gravel mulches used around trees, buildings, landscapes, walking paths, and flower beds.

Gravel mulch is a material used for landscape driveways, walking paths, and flower beds.

Moreover, Crushed gravel is a type of gravel mulch often utilized for walkways and driveways. 

Gravel mulch can prevent soil erosion and creates a firm foundation to drive and walk on.

Crushed gravel is also cost-efficient and can easily be used on driveways.

The season in which the gravel mulch is applied depends on the purpose for which it is used for i.e, towards the beginning of the growing season. 

Gravel mulch can also act as an insulator as the season goes on. Gravel much stabilizes the soil temperature and moisture and prevents the growth of weeds from seeds.

When appropriately used, gravel mulch is a very productive and healthy remedy for many plants but there are some side effects like soil compaction, which should be kept in mind.

Another viable option for mulching is sand and using sand as mulch can have some added benefits when it comes to pest control.

This mulch lock from amazon keeps mulch in place for a long time without much intervention.

Mulch Lock 16000, Ready-to-Use

Disadvantages of Using Gravel as Mulch:

Soil compaction:

Soil compaction is when stress is applied to a soil causes densification as air is displaced from the pores between the soil grains.

Gravel mulch is dense and has enough weight, which applies stress on soil, and that suppressed soil is unable to absorb rainfall, leading to runoff and erosion.

As the spaces between the soil are vital for root growth. Gravel much which presses the mineral grains together leaves little room for water and air, leading to the difficulty for development of the roots.

Besides this, burrowing animals also find it a hostile environment because the denser soil is more difficult to penetrate.

Other Disadvantages to Consider

  • It cannot be mixed into the soil to help increase the organics.
  • If we look at the appearance of weeds, then organic mulches are better than gravel mulch.
  • Gravel beds depend on chemical sprays for the removal of weeds.
  • There will be more work if one decides to have fabric under gravel.
  • It traps leaves and other debris compared to organic mulches as it is easy to remove that from the organic mulches.
  • The removal of gravel mulch is also a complicated process as it becomes challenging over time.
  • It might not be a good choice in urban areas to use gravel mulch as it traps heat.
  • Like most inorganic mulch, gravel mulch does not feed soil because it can’t provide nutrients.
  • These mulches can be used in sparsely planted beds. However, the densely planted gravel mulch can eliminate some of the problems in the list, so it is not that beneficial to put gravel around the new plants.

If you need to replenish your old mulch, here’s a good option that I have tried and tested and it comes at a great price.
You can find it here!

Cedar Mulch

The Takeaway

Using Gravel as mulch can enhance the nutrient accumulation in the soil, capturing the dead leaves that are then decomposed into organic minerals over time, preventing soil erosion, and regulating the plant’s temperature. Gravel suppresses weeds and enhances moisture in plants while at the same time beautifying the garden.

Intrinsically, Gravel is dense, and it has a negative impact on soil underneath. 

Its high density compresses the soil, leading to less porosity, thus degrading the soil’s air absorption capacity. 

Along with this, the depth of gravel should be kept in mind while making the gravel mulch.

In a nutshell, using gravel as mulch is advantageous for plants, soil, and the scenic attractiveness that adds to the ground and surely adds more for a good healthy plant. 

Apart from this, there are also rock mulches that add beauty to the gardens and make them more attractive and demanding, but the cost, difficulty in removal, and compaction must be kept in mind.

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