Landscaping rock or mulch

Bark mulch and stone mulch: each have their purposes

Evaluate the attributes of bark or rock and choose the right mulching alternative for your garden

If you are looking for mulch, you have plenty of resources at your disposal. The mulch you choose for your garden can have a significant impact on the appearance and the cost of landscape maintenance. Bark mulch is commonly used in flowerbeds and garden beds, and to protect ornamental plants. Stone or rock mulch, on the other hand, is predominantly a crushed stone and is popular along walkways, driveways, and around buildings.

This is the most common and inexpensive type of mulch, made from shredding the bark of trees. Bark mulch is a product of many different trees, the most common of these being cedar, cypress, pine, oak, and hemlock. Ask Melvin Mulch to explain the differences and benefits between various types of trees.

Bark Mulch Benefits

Bark mulch has numerous advantages. For starters, it is very economical since it is relatively inexpensive. One person using a shovel can easily apply it. Bark shredding brings organic matter and nutrients to the soil when it decomposes. Shredding the bark of different trees give a variety of hues and shades and is vital for edging the flower beds of any residential garden. Due to the cover of the mulch, the soil retains moisture better, allowing you to save water. Bark mulch also helps to insulate plants, especially during cold winters.

Bark Mulch Drawbacks

Bark mulch has some characteristics that might make it unsuitable for you. Due to its decay, bark mulch needs to be replaced periodically. The hues and shades will fade and may no longer work to the beautification of your garden. Shredded bark could also be blown away by the wind or washed off by heavy rains.

Stone Mulch

New York White Marble

Rock or stone mulch comes in a variety of rocks and gravel, such as lava rock, granite, quartz rock, river rock, and pea gravel, and in a variety of different shapes, sizes, textures, and hues. Landscape mulch does not decay or decompose and does not need periodic replacement, as is the case of bark mulch. The varieties of landscape stone available ensure that you achieve high the ultimate aesthetic value for your garden. Because rock mulch does not retain moisture, it minimizes the chances of fungi growth. The minimal maintenance of rock mulch has an impact on the overall expense.

Stone Mulch Drawbacks

Stone or rock mulch is more expensive than bark mulch, and heavier, making it harder to install. Its aesthetic value suffers if a large pile of leaves cover the mulch. It does not provide any soil-building benefits because rock mulch does not decompose. You might have to install a weed barrier to prevent weeds from growing through the rock layer. By using a weed barrier, you can avoid the proliferation of invasive plants.

When you want to buy mulch, the type of mulch you choose will greatly depend on factors such as landscape design, what plants you intend to grow, where the mulch will help, and the weather conditions in your area. Let the mulch experts at Melvin Mulch help you with your decision.

If you listen to us at all, you already know the wonders of mulch.

But you can never hear it too many times, so here’s a brief re-cap:

Mulch helps your soil retain moisture, so you won’t have to water as much. It keeps pesky weeds at bay by blocking the sunlight they need to sprout. It prevents rain from washing away your landscape soil.

We love mulch. And here at Level Green Landscaping, we use bark mulch much more often than rock. But there are times rocks are a great choice.

Rock vs. mulch in planting beds?

Let’s take a look.

First, What’s The Difference?

Bark mulch comes from a variety of trees, from cypress and cedar to pine, hemlock and oak.

Our favorite mulch here at Level Green is double shredded hardwood bark mulch. We go the extra step to use dyed dark brown mulch. The added color helps it stay nice and dark longer, without fading as quickly. It costs a bit more, but our customers appreciate the rich, dark look throughout the year.

Rock mulch is decorative gravel or rocks ranging in size from pea-size to golf ball size, often sourced from river beds.

It’s available in a wide variety of sizes, colors, textures and shapes, from porous, lightweight red or black lava rock to pretty, smooth quartz gravel mulch in purple or pink.

When Is Rock A Good Choice?

Most of the time, we prefer the look and cost of bark mulch, and the way it breaks down over time to feed the soil.

But when is rock a good choice?

  • If you have drainage issues on your property, rock is a great mulch choice, allowing water to drain quickly.
  • If you have open bed areas without plants, rock is an easy, no maintenance option.
  • Rocks are great for high-traffic areas, where pedestrians tend to take short cuts. Trampled plants look terrible, but rocks stand up to the stress.
  • If you’re considering a fountain or statue for a high-impact entrance, rocks make a great backdrop.
  • If you’re a no-nonsense property manager who wants to mulch then forget it, rock is your thing.

How About Maintenance?

There’s nothing like a fresh layer of dark brown mulch. It makes your beds look instantly fabulous.

If only it stayed that great looking. But it doesn’t. Mulch fades and breaks down over time, so you’ll need to replace it every spring.

Some Level Green customers replace it twice a year, in spring and fall, to ensure it always looks fresh.

Rocks on the other hand, require little maintenance. They may need an occasional washing to keep them looking clean and tidy. Over time, you might want to add a new top layer after they settle.

Note: rocks are heavier to move than mulch. Be sure you know exactly where you want it.

Curb Appeal

This is really a matter of taste and design preference.

Some people are mulch people, and seeing a load of the rich brown stuff delivered just makes them happy.

Others like the bright, clean look of rocks.

A bed of rocks with crisp, square corners punctuated with contemporary ornamental grasses creates a clean, modern feel.

But if you love the look of curvy beds filled with colorful drifts of annuals and perennials, bark mulch is your top pick.

What About Cost?

Rock is more expensive than bark mulch.

The price of rock mulch varies, depending on the type and size, but generally costs two to three times more than an application of mulch.

But remember, it doesn’t break down and disappear into the soil like bark mulch does. You don’t need to replace it every year. So you may actually save money over time.

What Does Your Soil Prefer?

Mulch made from organic material like bark or wood chips decays over time, crumbling into nutritious bits that actually feed your soil.

Rocks don’t add anything to the soil. So plants that grow in beds mulched with rocks may need extra fertilizing.

Things To Consider

  • If your landscape has trees that drop a lot of leaves and debris, rock mulch might not be your best choice, as it accumulates and sticks in the rocks.
  • Rocks require a fabric weed barrier underneath to discourage weeds from poking up through the rocks.
  • Rocks need steel edging or a raised concrete barrier to keep stray rocks from shifting into turf areas. Edging keeps rock beds looking tidy.
  • Flowers don’t thrive in beds mulched with rocks, but sturdy, drought-tolerant plants like succulents do well. Rock beds are naturally warmer than beds of mulch, so plants there need to be able to take the heat. Consider your plant material before you decide on a mulch.

Can’t Decide? Let Level Green Help

At Level Green Landscaping, we’re mulch experts. Rock vs. mulch in planting beds? We can size up your property’s unique needs and recommend the perfect mulch for your planting beds.

If you’re not already a Level Green Landscaping client, we’d love to add you to our growing list of happy customers.

Our focus is on commercial properties like offices, mixed-use sites, HOAs, municipalities and institutions in Maryland, Washington DC and parts of Virginia.

Contact us at 202-544-0968. You can also request a free consultation online to meet with us one-on-one.

We’d love to hear from you.

Rocks vs. Mulch: What’s the Best Choice for Residential or Commercial Landscaping?

Choosing the ideal flowers, trees and other plant life to adorn a residential or commercial landscape is among the most important decisions to make in the landscaping process. The natural beauty of the budding flowers and cascading bushes adds an aesthetic appeal that brings monetary value and attractiveness to the property.

Creating meticulously constructed flower beds, gardens and hardscapes around the yard provides a clean and distinctive look to enjoy. However, the final picture is not complete if you don’t include the finishing touch for a polished look: mulch. But with so many options available, how do you decide between organic and inorganic mulch options versus a rock filler?

Saying Yes to Mulch!- The Pros

When trying to give your flower beds and gardens a pristine look, mulch is a great choice for homeowners and landscapers.

  • It is typically quite affordable and won’t break your budget when you’re preparing your landscapes each spring. When compared to river rock options, organic mulch can often cost three-to-six times less at purchase. It is also widely accessible and can be found or purchased through home improvement stores, lawn and garden centers, big-box chain stores, and even many neighborhood gas stations.
  • Mulch is good for the environment and your plants, flowers and trees. Organic mulch breaks down over time, since it is made of natural materials like shredded bark, wood chips or compost. This provides important nutrients that encourage plant growth and vitality and soil nutrition.
  • Organic mulch provides natural temperature regulation for surrounding plant life. When applied in appropriate amounts, organic mulch acts as a blanket in colder temperatures to keep underlying plants warm and protected, and it helps to keep growing plants and underlying soil cooler throughout warm, seasonal weather.
  • The composition of mulch reduces water evaporation in the ground. Because organic mulch keeps the ground cool and moist underneath during warmer temperatures, plants are able to stay hydrated longer. This saves you valuable money and time that would otherwise be spend on additional watering.
  • A proper layer of mulch (2”-3”) will drastically reduce weed growth, cutting back on the time that will be required to pull out weeds by hand that tend to pop up over those spring and summer months.

Thinking Twice About Mulch- The Cons

Yes, mulch is extremely common, easily accessible and offers numerous benefits for consumers and nature, but there are a few important cons to consider that might make you think twice before you make a final decision.

  • The wrong amount of mulch could actually be harmful to your plants. Too much mulch could actually suffocate budding flowers or hinder plant growth. Putting too little mulch down around plant life might prove ineffective, allowing weeds to continue to grow where they are not wanted.
  • Mulch must be replaced or filled in annually. Organic mulch breaks down because of its natural properties, leaving gaps for weeds or unwanted plants to pop through. Depending on the size of your property, the added expense of annual replacement can get costly over time.
  • Don’t put your mulch down at the wrong Yes, this is a warning! If you fill your beds and gardens with mulch too early in the season, it may slow down or inhibit plant and flower growth. If you put down your mulch too late in the season, it may not stop pesky weeds from germinating and sprouting up as intended. Mid-to-late Spring is typically the right time to install mulch, so watch the timing and plan carefully.

Rocks; Time-Tested and Reliable- The Pros

Rock is a popular choice to line walkways, fill gardens and accent beautiful plants and flowers. The diverse choices available make rocks an ideal choice no matter the region or location. So, why exactly are people all over the nation choosing rocks over organic mulch for their gardening needs?

  • River rocks are low maintenance- they don’t wear down easily and last for a very long time. You won’t have to worry about filling in gaps unless outside forces (like playful children) move them out of place.
  • Because rocks are a low maintenance, long lasting option, they will save you time and money over the years. They will most likely cost more up front, but their longevity will pay off as the months and years go by.
  • Rocks are heavier than organic mulch and are typically more efficient at preventing soil erosion. They also are an excellent choice for keeping away persistent weeds that might otherwise choke out flowers and other plants.
  • Rocks are an ideal choice in warm climates or those with sandy soil and accentuate gardens with succulents and cacti. Rocks direct water away from plants that do not thrive well in excess water.
  • Rocks are attractive and offer a wide range of colorful options for accenting pools, walkways, gardens and other hardscapes.
  • For homes and businesses located in regions prone to wildfires, rocks are an ideal, safe choice for filling beds and gardens because they are fireproof and will help provide a natural barrier around buildings and other structures.

The Cons

When planning out your gardening or landscaping project, it might seem like utilizing river rocks instead of mulch might be the right choice. But, before you start picking out rock types, there are a few negatives to consider.

  • Rocks offer no added benefit to the soil underneath or the surrounding plant life. They do not provide any nutrients to plans and can actually be harmful to some trees. Trees grow best in acidic soil, but rocks cause the soil to become alkaline.
  • Rocks can actually increase soil temperature too much, making the underlying ground too hot for many flowers and plants to grow and remain healthy.
  • Rocks are heavy, but they can shift in place due to a variety of causes. When this happens, their shape and size can allow for stubborn weeds to squeeze through.
  • Rocks are ideal for permanent landscapes. If you change the design or more the landscape, rocks must be removed manually. This can be exhausting if you do the work yourself, and costly if you decide to hire a professional.

If you’re trying to decide whether mulch or rocks would be the best choice for your landscape project, contacting a professional landscape designer can help make the process a little easier. Their knowledge of plants, soil, and landscape architecture can help you determine which choice will offer the most benefits to your natural surroundings and fit your budget and needs most closely.

To learn more information about mulching options or to discover all the ways your landscape’s potential could be brought to light, contact Twin Oaks Landscape today at 734-213-6911.

Decorative pebbles – 3 great uses in the garden

More and more regularly we are seeing Decorative Pebbles and Gravels being used as a ground cover in garden beds as mulch, pathways, driveways and areas around the house where a something just a bit more “pretty” then bark or mulch is required. With the ever expanding and wide range of Decorative Pebble options available on the market it’s no wonder, you can now choose almost any colour of the rainbow!

Locally sourced pebbles can be a great budget option for your landscape design, with many naturally smooth river pebbles available in a variety of colours from all over the East coast of Australia. But for a real premium look, check out the range of decorative pebbles from Kashmiri Pebbles. They are supplied by the 20kg bad (or for larger areas, 1 Tonne bags can be sourced by special order) and come in a huge range of colours and finishes.

Using Decorative Pebbles as a garden mulch

The most common use of Decorative Pebbles is as a mulch in garden beds. Pebble mulch is a great option for a number of garden types and although initial install costs might be slightly higher than traditional tree mulch, long term maintenance costs will be greatly reduced. Why? Well tree bark and mulch, being organic in nature will inevitably break down and require replenishment. Expect to be replacing your mulch every 6-12 months and bark every 12-18 months. Decorative pebbles on the other hand can last a lifetime! Be aware however, that bark and mulch play a number of key roles in the garden. The first is quite simply soil protection from things like erosion, sunlight and weed germination a role pebble mulch can easily fill. The second is to break down and “feed” the garden bed adding organic compost from the rotting timbers. Unfortunately this is one role pebble can not fill, so you will need to ensure that you feed your plants and gardens in other ways such as through the regular application of liquid and slow release fertilisers. Pebble mulch is best suited for native and arid gardens where composted organics are not as high in demand.

Kashmiri Ivory Pebble next to pavers

Using Decorative Pebbles as a ground cover

A great way to spruce up an otherwise dreary area is to add colour! And much like paint and carpet, Decorative Pebbles can do just that for your garden. If you have a neglected corner, an eroding pathway, or an unkept and unwanted lawn, decorative pebbles might be your best option. We recommend at least a 50mm layer of pebble is used in order to get good even coverage and weed control matting is a must in these areas. In most cases with the use of weed mat (and a little bit of weed killer), the pebbles can go down straight over the existing surface for an instant facelift.

Pebbles no bigger than 20-30mm are recommended if there will be foot traffic and obviously the smaller the pebble the “softer” it will be under foot, but too small and you’ll leave footprints! For driveways a 20mm gravel (crushed rock) works best, as the angular edges lock in a minimise movement under tyres.

Using Decorative Pebbles as a garden and pot features


One of the easiest ways to smarten up your deck, patio or backyard is with large potted plants. Sometimes planting into ground is just not possible whether you’re renter or you have limited space. Our range of small to large feature pots are perfect for just that, and they can be finished off beautifully with a bag or two of Kashmiri decorative pebbles. With all the colours imaginable, you will have no trouble matching your pebble choice to your house, pot or garden colour scheme. Not only will the pebbles add a great colour feature they will also help protect your planting investment by preventing the potting medium from drying out so fast in the heat.

So if you’re looking for decorative pebbles for your garden project, drop in and see our full range this week! We have the biggest range of bulk decorative pebbles and gravels in Brisbane plus the largest stock holding of Kashmiri Pebbles in Australia!

Happy Gardening!

Stones and Pebbles for Creating Interesting Garden Landscapes

17 Nov 2014 | 0 Comments

It is very essential for gardens to have various kinds of flowers, trees plants and other greenery. It will be even more interesting and visually captivating if its landscape is decorated with stones and pebbles. Too many plants can make a garden appear crowded. It’s not also suitable for the plants’ healthy growth. A space needs to be left out between greenery, which can also serve as a pathway. Doing this gives you enough space to walk around, view your plants and tend to them as well.

Pathways must also look appealing. This can be achieved by articulately decorating them with stones and pebbles. But this is not the sole purpose of stones and pebbles. As a matter, fact they can be utilise in so many ways in garden landscaping. You can read below some of the important uses of stones and pebbles in creating a garden landscape more interesting and pleasant to look at.

Great for garden pathways
Pathways are very important in garden landscaping. To make your pathways appear creative and visually interesting, use stones and pebbles. Use them in otherwise empty spaces between plants to create different textures and colours. It can also greatly add aesthetics to the landscape.

Whenever you decide to create a garden path or other area with stones and pebbles, you must have to pay attention to the soil on which they are laid. Weeds can grow in such soil and can ultimately peep through the spaces between pebbles or stones. This can give you an additional chore of clearing them. Use weed mats to inhibit weed growth and save you from exerting effort clearing the weeds. Natural coloured stones from old river beds look nice and rounded. This type of stone requires very little work on removing the rough edges.

Ideal for lawn edges and flower beds
Pebbles can also be used to create edges for lawns and flower beds, giving them a definite border. It can also be used in water bodies like that of Japanese gardens. These types of gardens use pebbles to create the soothing sound of running water flowing over them.

Help moisturise the soil and mulch
The use of stones and pebbles in gardens can help the unplanted areas from losing moisture. This in itself can help the soil around the plants retain moisture, reducing the need for watering. Pebbles are mainly a result of sand mining operations, and are sometimes further processed by waxing and tumbling. Pebbles are also used on top of any organic mulch that you place around the roots of plants. Then again, these pebbles help the mulch to retain moisture and reduce any need for watering. They also inhibit weed growth and this can be a huge advantage for gardeners as the removing of weeds makes for back breaking work.

Beautify the water garden
Many landscape artists prefer to set up waterfall gardens as part of a garden landscape. These experts depend on stones and pebbles for gardens to create aesthetically and natural looking water gardens. Water is allowed to flow into ponds that have fish and aquatic plants. You can also have ponds that run for long lengths. Lining the banks with rounded and coloured pebbles can make for very pleasant looking ponds. Indeed, pebbles and stones can always add to the variety in a garden landscape and help to make it more attractive and realistic.

3 tips for choosing the right pebble for your garden               

When considering using a pebble for your garden you need to consider what you are using it for. Are you using the pebbles for a driveway or a path, or are you using pebbles as a long term resilient mulch.

1. Driveways and Path’s

All pebbles and gravel can be used as a pathway or driveway with the exception of Scoria which is too soft and brittle and will break when driven or walked on. When choosing a stone product for your drive or path it is based on personal colour choice and physical characteristics. Round pebbles tend to be easier to walk on were as gravels or crushed pebbles have angular edges and are not as comfortable to walk on. However, a gravel tends to lock together better in a driveway situation and moves much less than a round pebble does.

2. Pebble sizes

The most popular sizes available in the pebbles and gravel are 10mm and 20mm. 10mm sizes are better used in pathways and are ideal for walking on and 20mm sizes are most preferable for use in driveways as they will tend to last longer but either size can be used in both situations.

3. Hard or decorative mulch

Any pebble or gravel can be used as a decorative mulch. The advantages of using a gravel or pebble as a mulch is that they are inert. That is that they will not alter the soil in any way. They are long lasting, as they will not break down like organic mulches will and they give you the advantage of stopping water loss from the soil by evaporation as all mulches do.
It is recommended you use a weed mat under any rocks or pebbles used in the garden or in a path, as this will prevent weeds from coming through the pebbles. The matting will also assist if the pebbles need to be changed at all in the future as they will not mix with your soil.
If you require a pebble in a natural water feature it is best to use river pebbles which come in a range of sizes from 10mm up to 150mm as these will not change the water quality. They may have to be washed beforehand to remove any dust from transport and handling.
Pebbles are sold per tonne at any of our bulk landscape supply yards and are also available in 20kg bags and bulka bags.
If you’re still wondering what pebble is right for your garden, feel free to consult one of our friendly ANL staff members.

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