When to Consider Using Gravel as Mulch

Gravel can be an aesthetic and effective mulch in the correct situation. Should you be using it for your garden?

Gravel or stone can give a modern appearance to your property and increase its value. On top of that, certain plants—both in pots and flowerbeds—can benefit from using gravel as mulch. 

In this post, I’ll go over the benefits and drawbacks of utilizing gravel as mulch and what to expect while using it.

The Benefits

Gravel is fireproof, so it is often used around buildings and other structures. But it also keeps soil moist, suppresses weeds, and provides a finished look to planting beds.

Compared to synthetic and barren soil, gravel mulch can better conserve water in the soil. That way, gravel mulch lowers the frequency with which gardeners have to water their plants.

Gravel mulch also keeps the temperature of the soil consistent, which supports crop growth, and protects the soil from wind and water erosion. Finally, it does not wash away in a downpour or other unpleasant weather events.

beautiful garden landscape with rocks and white pebbles

The Disadvantages

For all its benefits, gravel mulch also comes with some negative effects.

  • It is dense and heavy, which can compact soil and prevent it from absorbing water.
  • It makes root formation difficult because roots require looser soil that allows air and water flow to thrive.
  • Unlike organic mulch, it cannot be incorporated into the soil and broken down into nutrients to assist with plant growth.
  • Weeds growing between the stones will be considerably more visible than weeds growing through organic mulch.
  • It traps leaves and other debris, which can become difficult to remove.
  • It is difficult to remove gravel mulch.

Types of Gravel

There are different types of gravel you can consider:

  1. Decomposed Granite
  2. Pea Gravel
  3. Crushed Granite Gravel
  4. Lava Rock
  5. River Rock
  6. Flagstone
  7. Brick Chips
  8. Marble Chips
modern garden landscape with gravel and large rocks

How to Use Gravel as Mulch

  1. Remove the top 1 to 2 inches of dirt from the garden bed so that it sits lower than the landscape. With the back of a rake, smooth the area.
  2. Cover the ground with pieces of nonwoven landscape fabric. Overlap the pieces by 3 inches to prevent weeds from working their way through the seams and the gravel.
  3. Cut slits into the fabric and stretch it over any existing shrubs or perennials in the bed. To wrap it around a tree, make a hole into the fabric that is 2 inches wider than the tree trunk. Then, make a slit from the fabric’s edge to the hole in the center so you can wrap it around the tree trunk.
  4. At each corner of the landscape fabric, drive a U-shaped garden staple into the earth. To secure the sheets, use a staple where they overlap. Staples should be spaced 12 inches apart around the edge of circular mulched beds.
  5. Cover the landscape fabric with a 1- to 2-inch layer of gravel mulch. Leave a 3-inch gap between the mulch layer and any plant trunks or stems.
  6. Before leaf and plant debris can collect and work its way beneath the rocks, use a leaf blower to remove it from the mulched area. Use your standard irrigation methods to water mulched areas. Moisture can seep into the soil through the landscaping fabric.

6 Plants Suited for Gravel Mulch

If you use gravel mulch to cover your flowerbeds, consider growing some of the plants listed below:

  1. Cactus Plants
  2. Succulents
  3. Blue Fescue
  4. Yucca Plants
  5. Alpine Plants
  6. Pig Ears
Jeffrey Douglas
Jeffrey Douglas own a landscaping company and has been in the business for over 20 years. He loves all things related to lawns or gardens and believes that proper maintenance is the key to preventing problems in the first place.
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