Using Rock or Wood Mulch in Northern Nevada Landscapes

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Look around northern Nevada landscapes, and you’ll notice a lot of decorative rock and, to a lesser extent, some traditional mulch. Both have their advantages, including reducing weeds and making flowers and plants pop. But which is better in your northern Nevada landscaping? Harris Landscape Construction shares the pros and cons of rock and mulch so you can make the best decision for your outdoor space.

What to Know about Wood Mulch

On a national scale, traditional mulch is likely the standard for most landscapers and gardeners looking to add nutrients to the soil. That’s because mulched plants and trees often exceed their un-mulched counterparts in terms of growth and aesthetics, and mulch tends to add a certain finishing touch.

Wood/bark mulch as a ground cover has the advantage of holding water better than topsoil can alone, and it protects topsoil from washing or blowing away. Plus, wood mulch can absorb heat well, which helps keeps plants cooler in our sunny high desert climate. In the winter, a layer of mulch can also protect dormant plants. Finally, mulch can help reduce weeds by blocking light they need to grow.

On the downside, wood mulch doesn’t last forever and it needs annual replacement. It’s also important that the right amount of mulch is used — too much can actually have a detrimental affect on your plants, so don’t use more than a three-inch layer and make sure to follow manufacturer guidelines. There’s also the question of when to mulch. Too early, and the ground may not be properly thawed. Too late, and weeds have a head start on establishing a strong root system. Finally, keep in mind that mulch quality can vary. It should be purchased from a reputable landscape supplier and applied right away.

What to Know about Rock Mulch

This is a popular ground cover in warmer states, and northern Nevada is no exception. It’s easy to see why — rocks come in a rainbow of flattering and complementary colors, so it’s easy to find a palette that will work with your home. They’re also a one-and-done effort. Once they’re installed, they won’t need replacement or much annual upkeep. Typically, that involves hosing them down and churning them occasionally. Upfront costs with rocks can be high, but there is a long-term savings to consider over the annual replacement of traditional mulch.

Rock mulches can also offer weed management similar to bark mulches, but they do tend to hold more heat. That can be drying to the soil below. Nor do rocks add nutrients to the soil. In fact, they can make it more alkaline than acidic, and trees tend to need acidic soil for optimal growth.

Generally speaking, mulch is a better option in gardens that need fertilizing, while stones are ideal as a complement to hardscaping elements. They’re an ideal transition piece adding definition and interest, and a combination of the two can be striking.

If you’re considering either ground cover and you’d like some help, HLC in Reno is here to help. Contact us today.

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