Interested in replacing mulch bed w/ Rock bed?

pbx2_gwJuly 31, 2013

We have a large mulch bed area in the back of our house facing an shared alley that is a pain to weed & keep tidy - since the alley is frequented by neighbors walking & we want it to look neat & tidy & low maintenance.

Went to California recently & saw many properties with rock beds around plants/schrubs/trees but know nothing about costs, topography needed, weed prevention, etc.

We live in central VA so weather is basically hot & humid from late May thru Mid August.

Any feedback would be appreciated.

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mad_gallica(zone 5 - eastern New York)

It works in a dry climate where weed suppression is done by lack of water. Any place where weeds can thrive on rainfall, rocks become a weed disaster.

The lowest maintenance plantings for much of the east is lawn. It is a big reason you see so much of it. In shade, some groundcovers can be fairly low maintenance.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2013 at 5:46PM
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pbx2_gw

Yes. After research I see your point about rocks, moisture & weeds.

I may just lay down sod where the mulch bed is now.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2013 at 11:45AM
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agardenstateof_mind

There are many low-maintenance groundcovers other than lawn from which to choose. Without knowing the sun, soil or water conditions, or your taste, it would be unwise to recommend specifics, but I suggest you consider plants native to your area as they are well-suited to the environmental conditions, generally pest and disease resistant, and often supportive of pollinators and other beneficials. And you just might end up with something delightful that everyone else on the block doesn't have.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2013 at 6:58PM
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yardvaark

It's a good thing you realized before you implemented it, that a gravel mulch will not prevent weeds. If weeds have been allowed to establish, even if just for a while, momentum has it that they will continue because they are self perpetuating. It's possible to overcome them, but it requires dedicated diligence for the first year and moderate diligence for the second. (Meaning that they must be eradicated as soon as they appear, and never allowed to produce seed or propagate by root expansion. If it happens, it means the extermination cycle can last an additional two years.) If you install sod before getting rid of roots of perennial weeds, they will likely infest the new lawn. Weed seeds existing and arriving in the soil will probably try to infest it as well.

The easiest and most effective ways to deal with weeds is with weed-killing and preventing chemicals, and heavy mulch. If you plan for turf, it depends on what kind of weeds are present to determine what will be effective to get rid of them first. If you plan for groundcover, it's probably easiest to kill weeds, mulch and leave the area unplanted for a couple of months so that worst of the recurring and sprouting weeds can be easily dispensed with. If you're diligent about preventing weeds during the first two years, it becomes easy to keep out the future occasional strays.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2013 at 8:05AM
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pbx2_gw

@ agardenstateof_mind - interesting concept - I will have to investigate with the landscape designer what you are talking about.

In the meantime, do you have any visual examples?

    Bookmark   August 2, 2013 at 2:06PM
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pbx2_gw

@ Yardvaark - when we first moved in earlier this spring - our mulch bed area was beautiful but once spring was in full bloom, the weeds came out daily.

My workout these days are not in the gym but on my hands & knees pulling weeds & spraying Roundup almost daily,

My concern is what the Roundup will do to my trees, shrubs, plants & flowers that was put in at teh same time as the rest of the landscape.

I am not sure if the landscape crew put enough mulch down but it seems like dirt has shown through in some areas & weeds have punctured through others.

Thus, my original post to inquire about a lower maintenance ground cover other than mulch.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2013 at 2:13PM
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yardvaark

It sounds like your mulch is not thick enough.

Maintenance of groundcover has generally to do with the amount of trimming its edges require. Until it's fully and solidly established, it's the mulch & your dedication keeping out the weeds.

As long as you don't spray Roundup on the green parts of the "good" plants, it won't hurt them. You would know within 1 week if you weren't careful enough so there's no need to be concerned about plant destruction that shows up much later. Don't know what you're using as the spray applicator, but sprayers I've bought have all come with a round pattern spray tip. It is not possible to be all that precise with that shape. I've always changed mine to a "fan" pattern so it can "cut" like a knife. I can get very close to things I don't want to spray without accidentally hitting them.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2013 at 3:30PM
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