Switching from Mulch to Stone

greeningup123February 20, 2013


When the snow melts and the temps warm up, I would like to replace all of the mulch around our home with decorative stone. My big question is: Should I remove all of the mulch before putting down stone, or can I apply stone right over the mulch? My concern is that over time the mulch will start to pop up through the stone (mulch currently is black; color of stone would be very light or white) - obviously complete opposites in terms of colors. I guess I could put down landscape fabric between the mulch and new stone to prevent mixing, but I really do not like the cloth/fabric and think it is a waste of $$. In addition, we have landscape lighting in the ground where all of the new stone would be going, so taking up the mulch will be even more difficult because of the wires. Again, do you think adding the new stone on top of existing mulch seems to be a practical idea? or should I remove ALL of the mulch that is currently there?

Thank you,

I appreciate it.

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The first question that must be asked is, "Why?" One can presume it will be an sizable undertaking. What are you trying to accomplish? The second issue is, would the grade tolerate being raised 2" - 3"? This stands a good chance of being a problem on its own, and if it is, would necessitate removing the existing mulch before adding more. Landscape fabric may be useless for weed control, but can you conceive of the remote possibility that, in the future, you or the subsequent homeowner would want to remove the stone mulch you install? It would be a big enough chore on it's own, but without a separator fabric, it would be an even bigger, more time consuming chore. Keep in mind that the stretchy, thin plastic "fabric" is worthless; only the strong, un-tearable fabrics would work. (If something is necessary, it's not a waste of money and isn't pertinent to whether one "likes it," or not.)

If you want to convert to stone mulch in order to control weeds, that won't work. Weeds will still grow ... even if landscape fabric is installed. If it's for aesthetic reasons, well, I guess beauty is in the eye of the beholder. To my thinking, in quality landscapes, mulch is a temporary surface. It just covers the soil until plants grow and cover it. When the landscape "comes together" the mulch is no longer seen. Where crushed, compacted stone is used as walk, drive and patio surfaces, that is not mulch, but soft paving so it's not really an exception. As for pure opinion, when I compare well planted areas to those where stone mulch is used, in general, I find the latter much less attractive, especially if the stone is white. I'm not necessarily always against glaringly artificial looking things. It's just that the white stone never seems to actually go with anything that's already there. I don't understand why people are attracted to it.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2013 at 5:05AM
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woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

Well said Yardvaark!

    Bookmark   February 21, 2013 at 11:38AM
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Suzi AKA DesertDance

Our home came with river rock in the side yards installed over landscape fabric. We really hate that rock, and although it was hard, we cut through the fabric, and planted a small vineyard. You could lose your life tripping on those rocks trying to prune the vines! And yes, we get weeds even where the landscape fabric was not cut.

I like the look of bark under small shrubs, but I would never use rocks! Happily we are moving and leaving those dreaded rocks to the new owners.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2013 at 12:07PM
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molie(z6 CT)

I'd love to see what the area around your home looks like now. You also live in CT, and ours is not a hot, arid climate so I'm trying to picture what effect you'd like to create.

From personal experience, I'd also warn against using stone as mulch. We had multi-colored stone put down between large slate pieces in a patio area. This combination of slate and colored stones looked great --- for about one season. Over time, plant matter fell onto the stones, disintegrated and turned into mulch. It became impossible to control the dirt that settled between the rocks, and it didn't take long for weeds to sprout up.

The end result is that these rocks now look "dirty" --- I don't know how else to explain it --- and our patio area looks like a weed farm. Whenever we hand pull the weeds, dirt naturally falls back on the rocks. The only way to control these weeds is with heavy spraying, which I don't like to do. I'm guessing that this would always happen unless the rocks are set in concrete.


    Bookmark   February 21, 2013 at 5:31PM
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