Landscaping & Design/stone mulch


I live in a condominium group, ranch-style duplexes. 15 years ago, when our units were built, the landscaping around the units was mulched with stones. It is now starting to need some  updating and we were told by one of our members that stone mulch is terrible for the shrubs that have been planted. Can you help us decide whether it is a good idea to just re-do some of the areas and possibly add some stones to others or would it be better to switch to an entirely different kind of mulch? Our lawn mowing company likes to use powerful blowers to clean up after mowing and it seems stones would stay in place better?  Thank you.


I would guess that the stone mulch was originally put in place to cut down on maintenance. Organic mulch requires more frequent replenishment than stone mulch.

To state some pro and cons between stone mulch and organic;organic mulch may hold a little more water in the soil than stone mulch and stone mulch does tend to absorb more heat. The spaces between the stones may collect soil(depending on how closely packed the stones are),thus allowing weeds to grow. Organic mulch also adds nutrients to the soil but decorative shrubs do not require a constant supply of outside nutrients, as from mulch. An occassional application of fertilizer should address that.

Also,blowing would be very helpful with stone mulch,to clear debri such as leaves from the spaces between the stones,which will become soil for weeds to grow. I do not believe replacing the stone mulch will benefit the shrubs to any real degree. Whether the mulch blows will depend on how heavy the individual stones are. You may get some blowing with pea gravel but with larger and more angular stones blowing will be reduced. Stones will stay in place better than most organic mulch.

From a maintenance standpoint and for your situation,I would stick with stone mulch but from a purely aesthetic standpoint,some people may like organic mulch.

Mark Harshman  

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Design of landscape structures and design of planting arrangements in the landscape. I usually do not answer questions of a horticultural nature or about growing plants or gardening unless they are related to design. I will answer these questions at my discretion. I will answer maintenance questions at my discretion,usually when they are related to design. I am a landscape designer. I am not a contractor or a gardener. Although I will describe how something is built I do not provide detailed installation or construction instructions. I do not recommend brand name products or services unless they are a clearly established practice. I do not recommend or give referrals to landscape related businesses. Here are example categories of problems I can help you with: Design of residential walks,low walls,low retaining walls,fences,drainage systems,arbors,plant selection,xeriscapes (low water use landscapes),rain garden design,rain water harvesting,permeable paving,sustainable drainage. No advise on an architectural or engineering level. I DO NOT PERFORM ACTUAL DESIGN WORK THROUGH THIS SITE. I only provide suggestions and advice. For more comprehensive help check out my website at:


Landscape concept plan for a 30,000 square feet housing site. Involved site recon by pace measurements and photographs and a site analysis and a site analysis report and recommendations and a preliminary cost estimate. Design elements included canopy trees,shrub cover,accent flowers,trash receptacles,benches and planters. Landscape concept plan for a 7,000 square feet site for a community center. Involved site recon by tape measurements and photographs,a site analysis and the creation of 3 conceptual designs for the site. Work was done through a local professional design center. Design elements included tree garden,playground,sitting area,lawn,cooking area,lighting and concrete and brick paving. Landscape concept plan for a 3,000 square feet housing site. Involved site recon by tape measurements and photographs and a site analysis. Concluded in 3 concept designs for the site,shown at a formal presentation,a site analysis and recommendations. Work was done through a community volunteer program. Design elements included decks,a playground and fencing. Briefly as draftsman for landscape designer/gardener. Conceptual landscape design for residence. Involved site recon by tape and pace measurements and site analysis. Design included covered patio area,ground cover and flower beds. Two years experience as draftsman for transportation department in engineering firm and for engineering consultants to phone company. Duties consisted of plotting topography. Survey crew member. General assistant to surveyor. Work was done for U.S. Army and County Highway Department. No instrument work. Duties included tape measurement,holding graduated survey rod and plumb bob for sighting and clearing brush. Marketed Landscape Design Services. Brochure writing,promotional material and marketing graphics.

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From Civil Engineer: I am very impressed with your work and with the obvious thought you have put into the marketing of your venture. It was especially good to see a print of that job we discussed on the phone. I wish you much luck with the venture as I do with your plans for school. Im darn proud of you buddy. And by the way,when I get my license,maybe you will consider me for a consulting job down the road. I hope to get together with Rick sometime soon and I would really like to show him your stuff if its ok with you. From all these questions you ask I get the feeling that you are genuinely interested and have put alot of thought into the idea and process of landscape architecture and if you could possibly afford the cost I would urge you to take some classes in the areas you are most interested in. The subject is not so simple as it appears,mixing science and engineering with art and a certain amount of religion to create a comfortable and pleasing balance between man and nature. A thoughtful soul like yours can do this but it can be a lifes work getting it right.

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