Using Gravel for mulch

12 years ago

I am new to site site and I have a question? My wife and I are on a tight budget with our new baby. We love the white rocks for our front flower/shrubs area. I think I can get a hold of some gravel. Can I paint it white? My areas in front are guessing: 4'W x 12'L and 4'W x 8'L

Any ideas?


Comments (8)

  • bullthistle
    12 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    You are joking right? Live with the color of the gravel.

    Here is a link that might be useful: Propagating Perennials

  • agardenstateof_mind
    12 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    Leave the gravel as it is, where it is ... you don't really want it in your garden. If you can't afford a commercial organic mulch product just now, then use some shredded leaves. You may not want to invest in a shredder just now, so run over them with your mower a few times until they're the right consistency. Some communities offer free mulch; I know many people who have used it with no problems, but I'm wary of it because I don't know whether it could contain pests or disease organisms (of plants, not people).

    The whole point of mulch is to help stabilize soil temperature, retain moisture and keep weeds down. Gravel is not really very good at any of the above, whereas organic mulch is, and it will break down eventually, enriching the soil and improving its structure. (Besides, toddlers just love to pick up those stones and toss/drop them into the lawn and other places they don't belong.)

    And get a compost pile/bin going if you haven't already. I know you'll have your hands full with a new baby (been there myself 3 times ... and the last with twins), but it doesn't take much time, effort or money; your garden will love you for it, and in a few years, when that little one is old enough to learn about planting and caring for flowers or vegetables, you'll have a nice rich soil for him/her to work in. You'll also be setting a good example and teaching a vital lesson by taking compostable materials out of the waste stream and recycling them into a rich amendment for your soil.

    Busy as you'll be, if you decide to start a new garden, or expand an existing bed, try the lasagne method ... it's quick and easy ... easy on the back, too ... the soil organisms do all the work for you. If you don't know what it is or how to do it, you'll have to do a search ... or just ask and I'll tell you ... if someone else doesn't beat me to it ;-)

    Enjoy that baby and the garden!

    P.S. Especially with a little one, I'd recommend staying away from the recycled rubber mulches, as well. Seemed like a really good idea at first, but I've been hearing/reading about some possible contamination problems, offgassing, and so on. I just wouldn't risk it at this point.

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  • katrina1
    12 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    Rocks mulched beds get hot in the summer and that encourages lace bug infestations to attach the bed's plants and shrubs. Also, if rocks are spread on the ground in a landscape bed, they will not be effective enough to prevent weed growth in the bed. So be prepared to spend a lot of time weeding your rock mulched beds, if nothing else has been done to stop the weeds from sprouting and growing.

  • laceyvail 6A, WV
    12 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    Once rock/pea gravel/ gravel get into a bed, it becomes impossible to redo the bed, add new plants etc. Also, keeping it free of leaves and other organic material is damn near impossible. Even leaf blowers don't do a very good job once the bed is heavily planted. Rock mulches may be great in the dry southwest, but you'll live to regret it in Tennessee.

    Use an organic mulch and improve your soil at the same time.

  • davidandkasie
    12 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    on the plus side, rock mulch WILL NOT ATTRACT TERMITES! sure, wood mulch is better for the plants but it also attracts teh termites as it breaks down in the ground. we had wood mulch in our beds until it brought in a huge colony, then it all came out. every exterminator i talked to said that you should keep wood and wood mulch at least 5-6 feet from the house, the farther the better.

    as to your idea of painting rock to match, it really won't work. simply shoveling in the rock will chip a lot of the paint away.

    pick the lesser of 2 evils to you and use the mulch product of your choice. you do not have to do it all at once, buy a buy or two at a time as you can, and start inthe most visible areas and work towards least visible.

  • Frankie_in_zone_7
    12 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    This is actually an interesting opportunity for you to delve into the differences between functionality and taste, because it applies not to just the gravel questions (of which there are many) but also plant choices, plant location choices and other issues.

    You "love the white rocks", so that's a visual impact/connection you have. Maybe you can dissect that even further to help see if you actually love the white rocks, or maybe some more fundamental aspect of it--is it that you think it looks tidy, looks like it might be low maintenance, do you just like rocks, or do you have some color combination or contrast that you're trying to achieve.

    Functionality would be that there would be some garden/landscape situations in which a rock product--gravel, stones--would achieve an important goal that could not be accomplished by another product.

    There are some of these situations in landscaping. However, you will find that they are fairly few, in part because rock creates limitations or barriers to other important goals.

    So, some of the above posts are aimed at identifying the purposes of putting something "on" your garden areas, and see how the rock will or will not accomplish that--such as, if you have leaves and debris falling, your white rocks will get messy and grow weeds and be difficult to maintain, and in the meantime you will not be able to add compost or degradable mulch to improve the soil (a common important goal for most gardeners) whereas these organic "mulches" serve several purposes.

    Then there is the aspect of color. This aspect can be viewed separately, because first you would decide functionally whether rock/gravel is a good choice (for any purpose--as a mulch, as a pathway material, as a patio material, etc), and then color would be secondary, because there are color choices (and size, and contour).

    I mostly can't stand white rocks, and I think it's fair to say I have not found any situations in which that appeals to me. However, I believe that is a personal taste issue, and so while we can debate whether my taste is better than someone else's, that is still a sort of style or culture thing that might change over time or in different venues.

    But almost hidden in my own reactions, are that most of the time white rocks are used in situations where rock itself is a bad functional choice.

    I have seen a number of photos of arid climate landscapes using rock and gravel in a really cool way. But the ones I like are always in some kind of natural tone.

    That way the discussion can be more focused on, man, just not the WHITE rocks, vs. whether any rocks are right for the location in question--the same way one might determine, yeah, foliage here is good, but that purple just disappears next to your house color, or that chartreuse clashes, or whatever.

    Others may have tired of the story of Frankie's white gravel wasteland, but I still have an area of white gravel in a sideyard. I've removed a lot of it and substituted some gray (now aged-color)pavers and some soil planting beds.

    I had 2 main problems--the wrong functionality and the wrong color.

    What's interesting is that now that I've reworked some of the area, I can honestly say that my biggest problem now is the color--I hate the white contrast with the other more aged,natural items and plantings I have and desire. But because I have been building in some other functionalities--places to grow soothing shrubs and ferns; a stable sitting patio; and have reduced the remaining gravel to areas in which gravel has some fair funcionality-- the necessary pathways to and from somewhere, or restful contrast to the planted areas--easy to rake--and because I have learned the functionality and maintenance tradeoffs between the problems of gravel vs. planted area(did I mention that all of this area is tightly fenced in and below large oak trees, so there's not the option of simple mow & blow maintenance) I would now have a sitation in which I so wish it were a natural color gravel, since pretty soon I might feel like I could just leave a lot of it as-is and have a nice area.

    But, it would be too weird (I think) to actually replace my white gravel with a ton of natural gravel.

    If we get back to color, and you find that you like something about white itself that appeals to you in your curb appeal concept, that opens your options up to seeing whether something else white would serve the same purpose.

  • bahia
    12 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    I have to agree with Frankie about white gravel not appealing to me personally. Here in California, the white gravel look is heavily associated with the type of owner who doesn't want to have to water or weed anything, and is usually combined with junipers or something similarly unimaginative. One tends to see a lot of this type of landscaping in trailer parks in this neck of the woods.

    As to gravel itself not being an appropriate mulch, it really depends on what you are needing a mulch for. Gravel mulch is superb for rock garden type plants that need a drier root zone and don't appreciate soil splash. It helps keep them from getting root rots, and for plants that prefer or need a temperature boost, it certainly helps them grow better. It is also a very common mulch in the southwest and west coasts, where an organic mulch is not as long lasting or might blow away in high winds. It is generally best to apply it over weed fabric if you don't want to lose it to mixing in with the soil over time.

    I myself have often used a gravel mulch,(although natural color only), when doing xeriscape gardens with lots of succulents, and thought it turned out very well, and virtually disappeared after the succulents all filled in. The stone gravel mulch is just as good at retarding moisture loss, while also keeping the surface dry, which is exactly the ideal combination for the plantings I chose, and they have thrived.

    If you still want the white gravel look, best to get white gravel/rock to begin with, and lay it over weed fabric. This will give you the most permanence with least weeding needed, but pass out sun glasses to guests when they visit, as white rock is not comfortable on the eyes on a sunny, hot day.

  • nelson637_comcast_net
    9 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    I've put in new landscaping and was considering using some sort of multi-colored gravel for mulch. Although I definitely prefer organic mulch, the new area is under a large tree that drops leaves and it's much harder to use a blower on to clear the leaves. Any suggestions?

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