There are many options when it comes to choosing a ground cover for your backyard ranging from synthetic material, such as landscape fabric and recycled rubber strips, to natural organic mulch and natural inorganic mulch. In the inorganic category, you’ll find rock-based ground covers like gravel, volcanic rock and crushed stones. The purposes of a ground cover like rock or wood mulch is weed suppression, water retention and aesthetic appeal. They conserve water and require less maintenance than grass-based yards. The harder surface may limit activities that can be performed on it. Before making your choice of rock ground cover for landscape, be aware of its advantages and disadvantages so you can make an informed decision.
Advantages of Rock Ground Cover
- Rocks are visually interesting and provide texture to a landscape that might be flat and monotonous.
- Ground rocks require less maintenance than a lawn of grass or turf does.
- Rocks are ideal for any climatic conditions, and unlike plants, do not need certain atmospheric conditions to thrive properly.
- Finally, rock cover can help protect plant roots from the elements, encouraging plants to grow in poorer quality soil.
Rock-based ground covers are low-maintenance because they don’t need constant replacing, maintain their appearance and aren’t easily blown away by the wind or displaced by you or your pets. Even non-living, organic ground covers need periodic maintenance. Many types of wood chips and bark chips need to be replaced every few months because the wood’s color fades. But rock does not require topdressing every year and is easy to reuse. It can also be washed clean with a basic garden hose.
Rock is much more resilient to the elements, which plays into the sustainability. Wind, sun and rain are not going to speed up degradation or displace it like they do with wood mulch.
Rock ground covers such as river rock or crushed granite, definitely have staying power. Durability is an important factor especially in areas such as walkways or a driveway where organic or living ground covers would be easily trampled or destroyed by visitors or cars. Gravel and other forms of rock ground cover stand up to heavy use.
Pea gravel and other types of inorganic ground cover don’t decompose and minimize the risk of such bug problems. Whereas wood chips, bark strips and plant ground covers decompose, and attract insects to the decaying organic matter. Of more importance are termites, which are attracted to most types of cellulose-containing mulches.
Rock covers also lessen the amount of water used during hot months, conserving a valuable natural resource and reducing the consumer’s water bill. The addition of rock near the foundation of a house can help stop erosion and reduce water damage to a home’s foundation.
Sinks into the Soil
Rocks and other stone-based ground covers being heavier than the soil upon which they’re placed can start to sink deep down into the soil over time, this can interfere with the healthy soil structure and make it difficult to till or replant the area in the future.
Flying rock projectiles can create a significant hazard for you and your family, especially if you’re using stone-based ground covers near areas that are mowed or trimmed. The lawn mower or trimmer can catch on the rocks and fling them into the air.
Rock gets much hotter than wood mulch and reflects sunlight, which can create an uncomfortable micro-climate for plant material. Pea gravel, volcanic rock and similar stones have a high capacity for absorbing and retaining heat, which they then release as the sun goes down. Rocks also reflect a lot of heat off of their exposed surfaces. It can increase the day and evening temperatures in the area and make your house hot, especially when you have these ground covers near your exterior walls. Rock, while easy to maintain, can be tough on plant material.
As organic ground covers, both living and dead, decompose, and add important nutrients to the soil such as nitrogen and phosphorous. Inorganic mulches don’t decompose and do not improve the soil.
Now that you know the pros and cons of rock ground cover it will be easier for you to choose the right landscaping material for your backyard. Contact Davis Concrete at (800) 910-6928 for advice on the best way to bring out the most in your landscape with gravel.