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Is rock a bad idea for landscaping beds?

5 years ago
last modified: 5 years ago

We are thinking of putting some l rock in our front flower bed tomake it easier to maintain (just leafblower leaves or trimmings!) i Ikeep reading about mulch on these forums. Is rock a bad idea? We are starting from scratch and were going to put landscaping fabric down first. Any thoughts? Also is plastic edging a good choice? Thanks!!!

Comments (19)

  • 5 years ago

    I have rock in some places because of leaves. I have both rough rocks and river rocks, in different places.

    I used landscape fabric, not to be confused with black plastic. At my local store, there are 3 “grades” of fabric, good, better, best, they are listed that way, and the best cost more than better. I think this is: you get what you pay for. FWIW, my state highway department uses landscape fabric in highway construction.

    You make get weed seedlings, just move the rocks to dislodge the seedlings.

    Mulch contributes to the health of soil, thus it is often recommended.

    I think plastic edging looks cheap.

    Jenny Pndo thanked User
  • PRO
    5 years ago

    It is expensive enough to create in the first place, but the worst part of using rock mulch is that when you later, or a new owner of the property later decides they've "had enough," it is an expensive, labor intensive effort to undo. Before doing it in the first place, you should ask yourself, "What is the look of the finished product that I am seeking?" Does it include barren area free of all plants? If it does, then I suppose mulch as the end product for those areas is in order. But nature's solution is to plant every square inch that can support plant life, making everything green in some way, instead of hard or crunchy earth tones. (I know ... if you're in a desert this doesn't apply. Are you in a desert?) In my opinion, it is much easier and less costly to work with plants, and mulches that decompose, than it is to work with gravels. If plants cover the ground, mulch is just a temporary cover until the plants are up and running. No one every needs to mulch a lawn beyond the initial seeding. Neither do they need to mulch other beds once the plants grow together.

    Jenny Pndo thanked Yardvaark
  • 5 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    We have a bed with rock and plastic edging, and it’s not my favorite bed to work with. Once you get rock down, it’s really hard to move. The plastic edging looked nice on the website, but in reality ended up looking kind of cheap and the stakes that you use to secure it are already breaking after a year. I also prefer working with mulch. It’s just much more flexible, it’s easy to move, and you can change the shape of your bed much more easily if you need to. We have an above ground pool with rocks around it, and that’s the only place I’ll be allowing rock from now on haha. No more rock in the flower beds. Maybe some people like it though! If you think you’ll like the way it looks, then give it a try...everyone has different taste :)

    Jenny Pndo thanked Lindsay K
  • 5 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    Rock will sink into and mix with the soil without landscape fabric, and landscape fabric interferes with the movement of air, water, and nutrients into the soil. So landscape fabric has a place such as under a patio or pathway, but not in a planting bed if you want healthy plants. It also doesn’t prevent weeds, and if they get to be more than tiny seedlings, they root into the fabric and under the rocks and are far more troublesome to remove. In a very dry part of the world such as the NM desert in an unirrigated bed, gravel mulch makes more sense since it suits the appearance of the surroundings, there will be far fewer seedlings, and the soil won’t mix with the rocks as readily. In the wetter parts of the world, a rock mulched bed will drive you nuts and many plants won’t thrive there.

    Plastic edging isn’t attractive, but if buried so only the rim is visible above ground and lined on the inner edge with bricks or patio block, it is well enough hidden as to be unobtrusive and helps keep lawn grasses out of the garden. I have done this in virtually all of my beds. It is visible in this photo over to the left side. DH likes this combo for edging since he can run the mower wheels along the bricks to edge as he mows.

    Jenny Pndo thanked NHBabs z4b-5a NH
  • 5 years ago

    Plastic edging = no. Rocks = hell no.

    Jenny Pndo thanked littlebug zone 5 Missouri
  • 5 years ago

    I am going to show my DH this Thread and hopes it convinces him to stop thinking of rocks. Lol

  • 5 years ago

    Thanks for the input! We are putting i flagstone pavers :)

  • PRO
    5 years ago

    Rock + Plastic = good for your least favorite brother-in-law, bad for you.

    Jenny Pndo thanked KD Landscape
  • 5 years ago

    We used large boulders/stones/rocks from around the property to build up a raised bed wall, and I've for my purpose and usage, they're not that great. Not only does my dog rearrange/move around/knock over the rocks looking for lizards, but the stones have gotten super hot in the summer sun/heat, and I've noticed the tomatoes (fruit, not plant) closest to the rocks start to wrinkle as though they need more water, while the tomatoes further away are fine. I'm thinking that perhaps the rocks give off heat that dry out the green skins. Granted, I didn't cage or otherwise support the tomato plants in that bed, so they sprawl close to the rocks/bed edge. I wouldn't have that problem if they were upright.

    The bed is filled with leaves I'd collected from the drainage along the long driveway and the tomato plants have done great in that bed. I can't speak for any other plants in the same circumstance because I haven't tried any others.

    I do have smaller rocks bordering flower beds that I then filled in with soil to create a raised bed of maybe an inch. Those aren't bad and don't cause any problems like the larger boulder-rocks and the tomatoes. I haven't had any sinking-rock issues that have been mentioned, and they do well keeping in most roots within the bed. Also, our soil is mostly clay in many areas of the property (5 acres) and thus the big rocks are rough, often pointy, and usually flat-ish.

    As for rocks as mulch, I think it depends on the rocks, their size, the thickness of layers, and the plants you have. We have a thin layer of gravel along the side of the house, and weeds and birdseed and native plants have grown through.

    Jenny Pndo thanked Jae I
  • 5 years ago
    No to rock.
    Jenny Pndo thanked Joy M
  • 5 years ago

    You have, by now, noticed the trend in comments regarding rocks as mulch. :-D (And the mentioned issues with landscape fabric are all spot on.)

    Organic mulches are generally best. There is also a simple way to stretch the mulch one picks up from BBSs and nurseries. One first puts down a layer of cardboard (remove any tape) or several layers of newspaper or shredded paper. Then cover this with a thin layer of mulch to hide the paper/cardboard. Particularly in a vegetable garden bed, this method can be tweaked a bit to do "lassanga" gardening in which compost like grass clippings can be layered between the "noodles" (the cardboard or paper layers).

    Jenny Pndo thanked Paul MI
  • 2 years ago

    I live in northeast Florida. We have 4 venomous snakes that visit our gardens. Bark mulch attracts them, especially Pigmy Rattlesnakes. They hide in it. Sometimes breed in it. Snakes also like its cooling effect and seek shade in it under plants. You see a lot of homes with river rock beds because of this. The snakes don't much care for 1-2 inch rock. It's not good for hiding and the heat is a deterrent. Aslo, they can be seen on the rock. We don't use plastic as mentioned above. How many plastic bags of mulch do you think are sold a year? Are all those bags biodegradable? Rocks do need to have dirt and debris blow out on occasion and need to be weeded (although less than bark mulch). I pull them which is harder than spray but NO spray is better for sure. Plants need a bit more water when it's hot and dry and I fertilize more. Rock beds increase resale value of your home in Florida. They cost a lot to install but over the years cost less since they don't need to be added yearly. They are also protective from termites and fire. So, like most things there are pro and cons. Rocks are organic, too. And snakes bites are dangerous and expensive.

  • 2 years ago

    "Rocks are organic, too."

    Maybe in the sense that they are not manufactured :-) But 'organic' in reference to any kind of mulch is one that will decompose over time and add to soil fertility. I've not met any rocks that can accomplish that feat!!

    There are situations where a rock mulch makes sense. But in most temperate, middle America gardens, they do not. Just a lot more trouble than they are worth.

  • 2 years ago

    This is an old thread, but look into crushed granite for flower beds.

  • 2 years ago

    "I've not met any rocks that can accomplish that feat!!"


    Lava for one. Orchards are planted all around the volcano's of the Cascade Mountain Range because of the decomposed, VERY fertile soil. Also, it's what grows and nourishes lush tropical Islands like Hawaii. The first plants that grow come right out of the degreading rock. Other rocks create soil too, which trees grow in. The bark off trees make bark (mulch). It's all good. Of course everyone knows what your saying. My river rocks are not helping the plants now and I'll be long decomposed before them. This is the first time I have used river rock (and I replaced the lava when I bought a house in the past because I don't like it). It' a personal choice. I put my health before the plants. The earth has no no bone to pick with rocks. They were here long before us LOL.

  • 2 years ago

    All rocks weather in time, which is what the lava enriched soil of Hawaii is all about. And is the basis for any other soil structure. But it takes eons for that to happen. Lava rock used as mulch is not going to come anywhere close to producing that effect!! I inherited a garden with at least 30 year old lava rock mulch and there is no way in the world that stuff is going to breakdown in your lifetime....or even your great grandchildren's lifetime!!

    Orchard soils here are not really volcanic in nature.......they are alluvial soils combined with loess and a small amount of volcanic ash.

  • 2 years ago

    Obviously, rock mulch does not provide nutrients to current beds as I noted. This simply is not everyone's priority. As I said, there are pros and cons to both. The original question was also about plastic edging. It seems to have started a rant against plastic and rocks. So, I will give my 2 cents worth on edging. In case anyone is wondering the same thing.

    Plastic edging seems not to hold its shape (or ability to stand straight) after a short time. I've seen this in 2 years or less. Then it doesn't have as clean of edge as aluminum. Aluminum is expensive but last several more years. Pavers look good but a big cost to install or time consuming to do yourself. They last the longest along with brick, concrete, and stones. Budget may be a factor. You can go with just edging the sod around the bed often and use no edging (careful the rocks aren't in the grass for mowing).

  • 2 years ago
    last modified: 2 years ago

    Looking at this thread reminded me of what a pain it was to pull weeds out of a bed "mulched" with lava rock. Hard on the hands, and if you let the weeds get ahead of you they're even more unsightly in a bed with rock compared to organic mulches.