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Using Stone as Mulch: Type, Location & Benefits Explained

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

When used as mulch, stone can prevent soil erosion, loss of moisture, and unwanted weeds from around plants. The stone should be applied 2” from around the base of the plant at a depth of 1 – 2 inches. Stone mulch is better at preventing erosion and does not need to be reapplied as compared to wood mulch.

This article will explain the pros and cons of using stone as mulch and what you can expect if you decide to.

The Benefits of Using Stone as Mulch:

stone mulch

Stone 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. 

Stone Mulches can potentially reduce weed infestation and evaporation and enhance the percolation and retention rate of the 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.

Additionally, because it has some weight, it does not blow away in periods of high winds.

The inorganic stone mulch can better conserve 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, stone mulch also maintains the temperature of soil by covering the soil’s surface, which is very necessary for the better growth of crops.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Stone Mulch

ProsCons
Cost – Low cost and Easy InstallationSoil compaction – The weight compresses the soil
Moisture Retention – Maintains soil moistureWeeds – Prevents weeds to a certain extent
Limits Weed Growth (yes, initially)Traps Unwanted Debris – Then weeds grow
Maintains Soil TemperatureRemoval
Does not Wash AwayLack of Potential Nutrients

Using Decorative Stone as Mulch

Decorative stones are a collective term often used to describe assorted styles and sizes of rocks that can be used for decorative effects in your garden or outdoor area.

Decorative stone includes gravel, pebbles, and slate.  

They can be used to spruce up borders and flowerbeds around the garden or landscape areas as an alternative to grass or paving solutions.

Pebbles

Smooth and round, pebbles are formed when a stone’s rough edges are slowly eroded by running water. 

As such, they will look perfect at home as part of a garden water feature. We recommend using colorful pebbles like our 14-20mm Scottish pebbles for an authentic feel.

Slate

Slate is a completely natural product and is an extremely versatile decorative aggregate. It comes in three main colors, plum, green, and the popular blue slate.

Gravel & Shingle

Pea Gravel is the most commonly used for mulching. The quartz gravel has a rounded edge and is relatively inexpensive; it has beautiful natural chestnut tones, which means it fits with any garden color scheme.

On the Other hand, Shingle stones are small, smooth pebbles often found on a beach. Shingle is also the name given to small, thin pieces of building material used 

Where can You use Stone as Mulch

stone mulch around plants

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 remove excess moisture under the property through evaporation.
  • It’s material used for landscape driveways, walking paths, and flower beds.

Mulch Depth When Using Stone as Mulch: 

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

  • Mulch and stone under 1-1/2” in size should be 1 – 1.5” deep.
  • Stone 1-1/2” to 2” will need to be 2” deep.
  • 2” to 4” stone 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 stone. 

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.

Types of Mulching Stone or Rocks:

Stone 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.
  • It does not retain moisture, which is why fungal growth is minimal. Another benefit is that it does not need much maintenance.
  • Stone 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.

    If there is open bed areas without plants, rock is an easy, no-maintenance option. 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.

Stone Mulch:

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

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

Stone mulch can prevent soil erosion and creates a firm foundation to drive and walk on. Crushed stone is also cost-efficient and can easily be used on driveways.

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

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

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

Apart from stone mulch, Crushed concrete can also be used for mulching, a type of stone mulch often utilized for walkways and driveways. 

Disadvantages of Using Stone as Mulch:

  • Soil compaction (because of weight):

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

Stone 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. Stone mulch which presses the mineral grains together, leaves little room for water and air, leading to difficult for the 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

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

The Takeaway

Using Stone 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. Stone suppresses weeds and enhances moisture in plants while at the same time beautifying the garden.

Intrinsically, Stone 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. 

In a nutshell, using stone 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, stone mulches 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.