Mulch vs rocks around the house | 12 Pros and Cons

Putting mulch and rocks around the house will make it look great, improve the soil and keep moisture in. Mulch made from bark will stop weeds, improve soil, attract worms and is low cost. Rock mulch is great for drainage, keeps soil in place and is low maintenance. Wood mulch will break down over time so will need to be topped up after 6 months.

 RocksMulch (Bark)
ProsStop soil from splashing on walls
Keeps moisture in the soil
Great for drainage
Low maintenance  
Stops weeds
Improves soil over time & attracts worms
Low-cost
ConsLets some weeds through
Heavy and more difficult to move
Needs to be topped up every 6 months
1 foot gap between mulch and foundation to deter termites  
NotesThese can be collected from natural river beds so ask where the rocks are sourced from to make sure it is not damaging water ways.A mixed bark mulch made from tree trimmings is a great way to improve the soil and recycle tree waste
Bark mulch works well between pavers. Weeds will eventually grow through rocks, even with weed matting.

Pros: Bark mulch around the house  

Bark mulch around the house will stop weeds, keep moisture in the soil for your plants and stop the soil from washing away or splashing on your walls. There are many types of mulch you can use, but a mixed bark mulch is best. It comes in a variety of colors including red, black and brown and will last around 6 months before you need top it up.

Bark mulch is also the most affordable option compared to rocks. It is the lowest cost mulch you can buy although it will need to be topped up every 6 months as it breaks down.

Bark mulch helps to grow healthy plants by improving the soil and keeping moisture in.

Bark mulch will also improve the soil over time. It will be broken down by soil bacteria and worms and add extra organic matter to the soil. This will make the soil great for planting over time and you can create a colorful display of annual flowers or plant long lasting shrubs for a great look around your house.

Cons: Bark mulch around the house

The main con to consider when using bark mulch around the house is that it needs to be topped up every year. This is adding another layer of the bark over the top of the original mulch to make sure that it says 2-3 inches thick to stop weeds. It will also brighten the color and give it a fresh look in your garden.

Pros: Rocks around the house

The benefits of using rock mulch are around the house is that it will help to control weeds and will stop soil from splashing on the walls of the house. Compared to bark mulch, rock mulch will not stop all weeds.

Rock mulch is an attractive look for around your house, as it comes in a range of modern colors including whites, black and gray and in a range of sizes from a small pea to larger than a golf ball.

Rock mulch is fantastic for drainage so it can work well near downpipes. I have used rocks to disperse any excess water that can drip down from our gutters in very heavy rain. This stops the soil from being washed away from my Star Jasmine.

Rock mulch does not need to be replaced. it will last for many years unlike bark mulch that needs to be topped up every 6-12 months.

Cons: Rocks around the house

One of the cons of using rocks around the house is that even if weed matting is laid underneath, some weeds will grow through over time. They can grow in the gap between the weed matting and the house or pavers as water and light can get through.

Weeds will eventually grow through the rocks, even if you lay weed matting.

Rocks are also heavier to move than bark mulch and expensive to get rid of if you change your mind. For me I have chosen to cover my rocks with bark mulch. I have explored this fully in a previous article, so check it out if you want to know more about covering rocks with bark mulch.

Rock are more expensive than bark mulch and can be up to 2-3 times the cost. If you are on a budget then using bark mulch will be a cheaper option.

How to use mulch around the house

To use bark mulch around the house, remove weeds and rake the soil flat. Then lay bark mulch at least 2-3 inches thick and flatten it over with a rake to create a smooth finish. It is ideal to leave a 1 foot gap between mulch and the base of your house to avoid termites.  

Laying mulch at least 2-3 inches thick will be enough to block the light to any weeds and prevent them from growing through. If weeds do manage to grow through the mulch will make them easy to pull out as it softens the soil over time and the weeds need to reach to get through the mulch.

What to put under mulch

Bark mulch

If you are laying bark mulch, you can layer sheets of newspaper under the mulch before you lay it. This is optional but it can help to keep the weeds down for longer. The paper will break down over time but it does help to stop weeds from growing through at the beginning.

Bark mulch can be a fantastic sustainable option if made from tree trimmings.

It is best to remove weeds before laying the paper if you can. Although the paper will smother the weeds, strong weeds like couch grass can still grow through. Rake the area flat and then lay the newspaper on top of the soil. Try to cover the ground completely so there are no gaps. You can then lay the mulch on top of the newspaper.

Rock mulch

Lay weed matting underneath rocks before laying them around your house. There will be small gaps between the rocks and weeds will grow through if weed matting is not used. Lay the weed matting on the ground and try to keep it as close to paving edges as possible. Weeds will grow through any gaps.

Weed matting will break down over time so after around 5 years, it may need to be pulled up and replaced. This is an annoying job, which I why I prefer wood mulch. Check out this video below for how to use rocks without weed matting.

Using compost as mulch around the house

Use compost around the house as mulch if you want to improve the soil. Add well aged compost as a mulch will add extra nutrients to your soil and keep the moisture in. Microbes will break down the compost over time, adding carbon to the soil. Garden worms will also be attracted to the microbes and organic matter turning them both into humus and adding air holes to the soil.

Using compost underneath mulch around the house

Compost can also be dug into the soil and a layer of bark mulch can be added to the top. This will improve the soil quicker as the compost will be mixed in, making it easier for soil microbes to reach.

Good quality compost or worm castings can be dug into the soil before adding bark mulch or rocks.

These microbes will take up a small amount of nitrogen from the soil while breaking down the compost. This will then be let back into the soil making it great for growing plants.

Growing plants in mulch around the house

If you want to grow plants around your house, using bark mulch is a great way to improve the soil and keep the moisture in. Check the amount of sun the area gets per day. If you get at least 6 hours of sunlight you can grow most plants including annual flowers. Mulch will keep the area cool and help the plants to grow.

If you put rocks around your house, the best type of plants will be succulents. Rocks will heat up more than bark mulch so you will need plants that are tolerant to heat. Small or large succulents are the perfect choice.

You can also mix mulches together to give your plants the best of both rocks and mulch. I have used larger rocks to keep the soil around the plants roots when there is heavy rain and to build up the soil level. I have then used a covering of sugar cane much to improve the soil and keep it moist. Check out the picture below.

I have used a combination of rocks, sugar cane mulch and bark mulch in this area. The rocks help to drain water away from the star jasmine, the sugar cane mulch improves the soil and the bark mulch keeps the weeds down. I obviously don’t follow the 1 feet away from the house rule for bark mulch (what a rebel!).

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