Stone or Mulch - Which is More Cost Effective?

Decorative landscape design in backyard using mulch in flower bed, with pebbles, gravel border and a stone walking path
Are you planning to remove a small amount of your lawn and replace it with either stone, rock or mulch. Maybe you are just in the mood to give your current landscaping a fresh, new look. Either way you may be trying to decide which option will look the best, and be the most cost effective? In this article we’ll review these different options and try to help you decide which one might work best for you.

In most situations stone, or rock would seem to be a better, more cost effective option than mulch. However, there are some situations where using mulch instead of stone or rocks in and around your landscaping is a better long-term option. Let’s look at these options a little closer.

Benefits of Stone/Rock

Although rock presents a higher upfront cost, it does not require as much daily maintenance or need to be replaced annually (unless you get tired of the look). Rocks and stones are available in a wide variety of sizes, colours, textures, and shapes. Mulch has a more limited selection but does come in a handful of different colours and textures. Let’s discuss the benefits of these options to help you decide which one is best for your yard.

Cost of Rock

Although the initial cost of some rock and/or stone is around triple the cost of most mulch, it will last considerably longer and doesn’t need to be replaced as often. Stone and rock hold up really well when exposed to the elements so they don’t break down, fade or disappear into the soil like mulch eventually will. Rock and stone hold onto their neat appearance for much longer. As a result, you can usually recoup the cost of stone and/or rock in about three years.

Benefits of Rock

Rock and stone are a good choices if you’re looking for a lower maintenance option. Since rock and stone require a lot less upkeep to maintain their appearance, you can go several months without doing much of anything. They may need to be rinsed off occasionally to keep them looking clean and tidy, but they won’t need to be replaced. If your landscaping has drainage issues, rock and/or stone are good because they help water drain quickly. Rocks and stones are also a good to use for high-traffic areas. Whether it’s people or pets, stone and rocks tend to fair well regardless. Of course, if the rocks or stones get kicked up, you might have to tidy them up from time to time, but for the most part they hold up well to the stress of high traffic. Mulch, on the other hand can get scatter and messy when used in high traffic areas. One final consideration for using stone or rock is your personal preference. Some homeowners prefer the look of rock and/or stone over mulch. If you’re considering adding a statue or fountain as part of your landscaping, stone or rock provide a great foundation. A well laid out bed of rocks or stone presents a clean, modern look and feel to your yard.

Cost of Mulch

For many people adding mulch to their landscaping seems like the cheapest, low cost option. But depending on how much is needed, and where it’s being used, mulch can get pretty expensive. If you’re using mulch to cover a large area that is exposed to direct sunlight for most of the day, you should consider the cost of replacing it every 3-4 months. Depending on the type and quality of mulch you use, most will begin to fade within a few months when exposed to direct sunlight for extended periods. And if you like how your landscaping looks with a new layer of fresh mulch, you may be replacing it 3-4 times a year. Not only does this mean additional costs, but there is additional labour involved too.

Benefits of Mulch

Before bashing mulch too much, there are some benefits to using mulch for landscaping. Mulch does help soil retain moisture so you won’t use as much water to keep your plants, flowers, shrubs and trees looking green. Mulch also helps limit weed development and growth by blocking the sunlight they need to sprout. Mulch is a good anchor for your soil, which can prevent heavy rains from washing it away. And for those who believe in using natural landscaping products, most mulch is made from organic material like bark or wood chips. As it degrades and breaks down, it returns to the soli where it first started. The decaying chips then become nutritious that actually enrich the soil and feed plants and flowers. On the other hand, rocks don’t add any nutritional value to the soil, which means fertilizing more often to keep plants and flowers thriving.

Related Topic: What Are the Different Types of Mulch?

Get Professional Advice

Stone and rock or mulch? As we reviewed, there are benefits to using all three, with a variety of factors to consider. Choosing the best option often comes down to a matter of personal preference. If you’re having trouble deciding, seek advice from your local landscaping professional, The Grounds Guys. We can discuss different options and help you decide which one is best for your property. Visit our website or call (888) 972-8063 to schedule an appointment today!