Do You Use Rocks as a Mulch?

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Rocks and pebbles can make an attractive garden mulch in Houston, when you put as little thought into it.

Houston floods. It is a fact of life that is not always pleasant for my garden. I have placed mulches in various spots around my garden, only to see them washed away. I did not enjoy the idea of buying new mulch each year for all of my garden beds, particularly when I was trying to cut down on expenses. Using rocks and pebbles became my goal. Fortunately, there are many types to choose, which makes for some garden design a little more interesting.

    Iremember going to the gardens of palaces and castles in Germany as a kid. The use of rocks to create patterns stuck with me. My first foray into using rocks was in my front courtyard garden. I used a white granite in two triangle sections, and black Moon pebbles in the two other sections. What did happen over time is the white granite became stained brown with the falling leaves, and the two colors became mixed. I have kept this pattern, but it does take a bit of work to keep it up, which I do not think most homeowners would undertake. Sticking to one color was the lesson that I took away with me from this experience.

   My next use of rocks as a mulch came in a shade garden. A large tree in a corner of my back yard prevented grass from growing well, so I began to plant shade loving plants, focusing in on groundcovers. They were growing, but still I tracked mud into the house when I went out to my shed after a rain. The corner was also quite dark. I decided on a pebble mix that was lighter in tone to brighten up the area. This spot happens to be where rain water flows through the backyard to the front, so the pebbles stayed in place.

    My next project was by some trees in the front yard. During a couple of storms, my front yard flooded, taking away the mulch. I went with the pebbles that I had used in the backyard, which worked great, but I realized the look was not to my liking. I found a bag of red lava rocks which helped set off the orange and blue flowers in the two different beds. This made me consider the use of color more when choosing rocks as mulch. Garden centers do carry options, but the better choice may be to go to a business that specializes in stones. Most of these places will provide bags for you to fill up, which are weighed. The other option is they way your vehicle, then they weigh it after you have loaded  the rocks.

    I am using a compost mulch on vegetable beds and on beds where the plants cover the ground. No point in using rocks when they cannot be seen, or where I want the benefits of compost. Rock mulches do reduce the need for weeding, but like any mulch, you will still have some weeds pop through. I have used landscaping fabric; however, I have found that I need to redo this fabric every few years. As for leaves falling on the rocks, I have not been too concerned in most of the areas. I sweep or rake when needed. The only problem spot is the front courtyard. Sweeping and raking helps to mix the rocks, and the white granite stones do stain. We put a new coating of white stones on top of the old.

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This site came out of my desire to write about my love of gardening, but also to connect it to my knowledge derived from home inspections. That is why I tied it to the home inspection site.If you have questions, you can email them to me (frank at For home inspections, call 713.781.6090.
Happy gardening, Frank


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