Gravel and mulch have different pros, cons, and purposes. But why should you have to choose between one and the other?
Sometimes different parts of your garden will need different treatments.
Don’t sacrifice one part of your garden for the benefit of another – using mulch and gravel in the same garden bed can be a beautiful, practical solution.
Pros and cons of mulch
Mulch tends to be cheaper than gravel. As it decomposes, it provides additional nutrients to the soil, reducing or even eliminating the need for fertilizer.
It helps to block weeds from growing and is relatively easy to install compared to heavier gravel.
Organic mulch helps regulate the temperature of the soil, and as it decomposes, it helps keep the soil loose enough for plant roots to grow easily.
It helps retain moisture, which reduces the need for watering, and it helps feed microbes that help mitigate the negative effects of pesticides.
On the downside, mulch needs to be added or even replaced every year. Since it is lighter than gravel, it can be washed away by heavy rain.
It can also sometimes attract insects, so it isn’t always ideal to keep right next to your home.
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Pros and cons of gravel
Since gravel is heavier than mulch, you don’t need to worry as much about it being washed away in heavy rain.
The natural color of the rocks won’t fade, and the rocks don’t need to be replaced every year, which means it’s a lower-maintenance option than mulch.
Rocks and gravel are also less likely to attract allergens than mulch.
In addition, rocks like the mexican beach pebbles at Big Earth Supply come in a variety of shapes, colors, and textures, making it easy to add a beautiful collection of them in your next landscaping project.
If all weeds are removed first and a lawn sheet is placed under the gravel, it can be a great way to keep weeds and pests away.
Since less water gets through gravel than traditional mulch, it can also be a great choice for plants that prefer it dry, like cactuses.
Gravel can be expensive compared to mulch, and since it’s heavier, it’s a lot more difficult to lay down. It’s also a lot more difficult to add or remove plants when there is gravel in the way compared to mulch.
It can be difficult to keep leaves and debris out of gravel, and it can be difficult to keep gravel inside the garden bed, potentially creating projectiles when swept under a lawnmower.
It also doesn’t help regulate soil temperature very well and won’t provide nutrients to your plants the same way mulch does.
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How to combine them beautifully
You can achieve a beautiful look by separating your garden bed into distinct areas that would benefit most from either gravel or mulch.
Perhaps you want several feet of gravel closest to your house – and away from your lawn and lawnmower – with a few dry-weather plants to prevent insects from feeling welcome inside your home.
Then you can add an outside layer of mulch farther away from your home with plants that would benefit from everything that mulch has to offer.
Your garden will have more depth, your house will have fewer insects, and your lawnmower will encounter fewer rocks and pebbles.
For a nice sharp look, you will want to use edging to separate the different areas. Keeping the gravel and mulch separated with clean edging will add a gorgeous aesthetic to your garden beds and will help maintain the benefits of either option segregated to its own section.
Here’s a quick tutorial on edging in your lawn and garden.
It is possible to have the best of both worlds with just a little bit of planning!
2 thoughts on “Opposites Attract: Using Mulch and Gravel in the Same Garden”
I loved that you explained that gravel is heavier than mulch and therefore it will not be carried away when it rains heavily. I have been trying to design a beautiful garden for my new house. My husband said that I should weigh all the options and then make an informed decision that could help me out.
Thanks for your feedback Faylinn! We have so many options to choose from when it comes to selecting mulch, whether traditional wood or a more contemporary gravel. Good luck with your decision! Let us know how we can help.