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Your Northern Michigan landscape project is nearly complete; the flowers are and trees are planted, hardscape is installed, and it is finally time for the finishing touch. But what is the right fit? What are the pros and cons of mulch vs. stone? Making the right choice for the right spot in your landscape can be cost effective and help your landscape thrive!


The choice between mulch and stone really can set the tone for how your landscape looks, but the first factor you have to consider is cost. If your budget is already very tight after all of your other choices in your landscape, bark mulch may be the only choice that makes sense. The overall initial cost of mulch is significantly cheaper than stone. However, this cost is repeated year after year as bark mulch has to be replaced as it breaks down throughout the year. Rock is more expensive up front, as the product itself and delivery tend to be more costly. Fabric and metal edging also need to be installed, whereas mulch does not need either. Over time, rock installation probably ends up being cheaper as it is a one-time installation.

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Plant Health

In terms of plant and soil health, bark mulch is the clear choice. Mulch not only adds nutrients to the soil, it also holds water to assist your plants. It helps to absorb some of the heat from the sun to keep your plants cooler in our hot summer months and acts as a blanket insulating them for our winter months as well. Laying mulch also helps to fight weeds that try to choke out your plantings. Each season when mulch is installed, a preventative weed killer is laid before the mulch.

Rocks are not necessarily bad for plant health, but they do not add any nutrients. In fact, rock used as mulch tends to absorb the heat from the sun and raise the soil temperatures, which can dry out your plant’s roots. Rocks can also compact soil which over time can cause issues for certain plants. They can create an alkaline PH level in your soil, which is not great for your trees health as they thrive in acidic soil. When fabric is installed before rocks, which it should always be, rocks are a great weed preventer. It is easy to remove weeds chemically or manually throughout the year as well.

Maintenance and Upkeep

Mulch has to be replaced every year, so it has significantly more maintenance than rock. This is because it fades in color each year and breaks down over time. It needs to be replaced because the plants do not reap the benefits from year-old mulch, and it looks pretty unsightly if it is not installed each year. When heavy rains and storms hit, mulch can be washed out of your landscape beds as well, creating more work. Other than seasonal weeding efforts, rock has basically no maintenance. It does not fade or change color after installation, does not need to be replaced, and will not wash out after storms! The only downside to stone when it comes to maintenance is that it is challenging to add plantings to your landscape after it is installed.

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Selecting TruNorth Landscaping to Maintain Your Landscape Beds

Overall, either rock or bark mulch can be a good choice for your landscape. Both offer several different varieties to choose from that can complement your home.

Because of the general benefit to plantings, we tend to recommend mulch as the best choice to fill landscape beds. While spreading mulch into landscape beds is not rocket science, it is a whole lot of hard work, and there is a method so that your landscape beds end up looking neat and tidy vs. bumpy and lumpy. Too much mulch can endanger trees and can create the dreaded ‘mulch volcano‘. We also pay a little bit extra for premium mulch that you cannot find at a local hardware store. Our mulch takes significantly longer to fade due to sunlight and does not have added ‘filler’ like many of the brands that are sold in bags around town.

In addition to premium mulch installed in an aesthetically pleasing way, we also put down a pre-emergent product that helps to prevent weeds. This pre-emergent really helps prevent those Spring and early Summer weeds that will have you doing tons of work weeding beds. We also re-create a natural edge to all of your beds which helps them to look crisp and fresh.

While mulching isn’t rocket science, it can be labor-intensive, especially when you are already tackling your spring clean-up tasks. If you are looking to complete a spring clean-up yourself, use the checklist found in this blog. To learn more about the maintenance services we offer, check out our services page. Many clients typically bundle mulching services into their spring clean-up service.

Ready to have the best-looking property on the block in Grand Traverse or Leelanau County, MI? If so, meet with our team of experts, choose a solution to improve your property, and get ready to sit back, relax, and enjoy your beautiful outdoor space.

Get started today with a consultation!

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