rocks, dirt or bark?

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bitzala
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rocks, dirt or bark?

Postby bitzala » Sun Sep 24, 2006 9:54 pm

This is probably obvious to most here, but I'm wondering what you all do with plant beds that have a lot of dirt between and around the plants?

Do you tend to leave the dirt or fill in the ground space with small rocks or pebbles?

Our gardener keeps wanting to put bark in the space, but I'm resisting.

Thanks much for any help.

bitz

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Postby Futura Girl » Mon Sep 25, 2006 1:05 am

top dressings like rocks or bark are often more then just pretty things - they can improve/maintain the condition of your soil and can cut down evaporation and improve water usage.

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Postby BOXOUTBM » Mon Sep 25, 2006 6:28 am

We are adding rocks as a top Dressing to most of our landscaping with the exception of some moss-like ground cover under a long hedge that provides privacy from our neighbors. Bark and wood chips attract bugs, and flies. The previous owner placed bark everywhere and after we had that removed we noticed a huge decline in small flying insects.

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Postby bitzala » Mon Sep 25, 2006 6:37 am

Futura girl-- thank you for the info! I didn't know that top dressings help with water usage.

BOXOUTBM: Good to know-- we don't need any more bugs here. (It's carnivorous yellow jacket season and we're surrounded.)

Besides nurseries, any good places to buy rocks that fit particularly well with MCM homes?

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Postby BOXOUTBM » Mon Sep 25, 2006 6:50 am

We went with a Round River Rock (Black/Gray) In various Sizes. Do not get the polished rocks, they cost more and the sheen that is on the rocks goes away within a couple months (A neighbor of ours put them in and now they look like our dull rocks). The best place to buy would be a rock yard /quarry. We have one in Long Beach off Spring and Los Alamitos. A friend of mine went to a place in Torrance, but they do not deliver. The Long Beach Rock Yard will deliver (1000+ pounds of rocks, does not do well in most vehicles :( ) We will be purchasing some more in a couple weeks after the mjaor portion of our landscaping is done.

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I would say

Postby modfan » Mon Sep 25, 2006 7:41 am


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Postby kjansma » Mon Sep 25, 2006 1:45 pm

If you use bark, just use the shredded, mulch-like bark. You have to replace it yearly because it breaks down and improves the soil. ("Gardeners" seem not to like these useful ground covers because they tend to blow around if they use those horrible leaf blowers. Don't get me started on what those do to the topsoil as well as what could otherwise be quiet Saturday mornings in my neighborhood). Please, please don't use those big chunks of bark. They never go away and black-widows just love to hang out in them. The shredded bark is great for areas where you may want to add plants or have a living ground cover fill in bare areas. I use the round, grey rocks (which seem to be a staple in MCM areas) where people may walk or earwigs eat all the ground cover I try to grow.

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Postby 64Cat » Mon Sep 25, 2006 1:50 pm

I like rocks because you don't have to replace it every couple of years. Living in Minneapolis also means I can blow the leaves off in the fall without having to put rock back.

I would have like to use river rock but the previous owners had rocked all around the house and I didn't want to move that and replace it. I did add 7 tons of rock. You'd be suprised how much space rock takes up on your driveway.

karl

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Postby PlanetGlass » Mon Sep 25, 2006 4:19 pm

As others have said, covering the dirt is extremely important in a dry climate like So Cal.

What to use depends a bit on the kind of planting you have. Desert gardens prefer rocks, as do areas under oak trees. If you're watering, bark or mulch is great. Living ground covers, prefably california natives, can fill in between larger plants.

Beware of commercial barks or mulch that have additives. If a tree trimmer is mulching a tree in your area, they're usually more than happy to dump the mulch in front of your house. It's a lot of mulch, but if you have a large yard and are willing to hire a few guys for a day, you can cover a whole yard almost for free. That's what we did, a few years ago, and the mulch is still thick.

Laura

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Postby bitzala » Mon Sep 25, 2006 10:11 pm

Wow-- thanks (PlanetGlass, kjansma, 64cat, modfan, BOXOUTBM) for all the great input. I'm never disappointed on this board.

Since we have a lot of big agave and other cactus/desert plants, I'm leaning towards light grey, small river rock. assuming that exists. (Just found a place in Pasadena called La Canada Rustic Stone.... $13 per 75 lb bag.)

Laura-- why rocks under oak, I wonder?

thanks,

bitz

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Postby egads » Mon Sep 25, 2006 10:28 pm

Oak trees do not like wet feet.

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Postby tig64105 » Tue Sep 26, 2006 6:43 am

I used black mountain slate. I think it looks great. See here:


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Postby bitzala » Tue Sep 26, 2006 10:31 am


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Postby kjansma » Tue Sep 26, 2006 2:22 pm

Also, if you don't already have it, the Sunset Western Garden Book is great for anyone living on the west coast. They have a section called "Problem Solvers". One of the sub-sections is "Plants for Growing Beneath Oaks". Most oaks out here don't really like any water at all in the summer. They say not to water within 10-15 feet of the trunk.

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Postby KateT(CA) » Wed Sep 27, 2006 12:32 pm

We have bark - very pretty, but it needs constant maintenance and the kitties like to dig in it - pee-you. So we are converting to river rock and decomposed granite - looks gorgeous! No bugs or kitties and helps keep in the water & soil.
Best regards,
Kate at Studio 85

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Postby bitzala » Thu Sep 28, 2006 7:50 am

kjansma-- thank you for the advice on oaks. We have several and one of them does catch water from hillside sprinklers. We'll have to rethink our irrigation.

KateT... so glad you mentioned the kitty litter potential. Thank you. I just looked at very small (1/4 to 1/2 " ) Mexican pebbles yesterday and really liked them. I'm wondering if tiny rocks may also attract cats?

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Postby PacificaModern » Thu Sep 28, 2006 8:10 am

Regarding buying rock:

IF you need a lot of them, we found that rocks are generally MUCH cheaper when bought in bulk rather than bagged in 75 or 100 pound increments. When we did our place, we bought ours in bulk and it actually comes in really GIANT bags (multiple tons in a bag -- we had lots of 'em). Then the guys have to wheelbarrow or Bobcat it to the desired location.

I was shocked at how many tons our place required! :roll:

Regards,
Marty

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Postby bitzala » Thu Sep 28, 2006 8:50 am

Hey, Marty-- do cats use your rock for litter?

Just wondering.

bitz

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Postby PacificaModern » Thu Sep 28, 2006 12:33 pm

They don't use the rocks for litter, however, I have an on-going battle with one of the local felines who likes to use my black slag pond once in a while.:evil: I have installed an ultra-sonic torture device which is motion activated which seems to have curbed his urge lately... :wink:

Marty

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Postby robbhouston » Fri Sep 29, 2006 5:09 am

I too didn't want to re-mulch every year, so we recently laid approx. 700 sqft of 2" river stone at about 3" to 4" deep around the entire perimeter of our house. Beds were cut in, degrassed/deweeded, excess soil was removed, area was sprayed w/weed killer, then covered in landscaping fabric. We edged the space using approx 140 16"x8"x2" rectangular pavers and laid a couple of walking paths using 16"x16"x2" square pavers. Man, am I glad that particular task is done...!

Image

More photos...
http://0044f49.netsolhost.com/nashville ... aping.html

It was a pretty big job, but hopefully will last years. Good luck with your landscaping plans!

--Robb
Last edited by robbhouston on Fri Sep 29, 2006 3:38 pm, edited 4 times in total.
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Postby STLModern » Fri Sep 29, 2006 8:14 am

I would stay away from bark. It looses its color and attracts insects and spiders. Plus it could spontaniously combust as it did to a home here in STL a year ago. The house burnt down and the lady living in it died.

We went with 1" clean limestone from the quarry. CHEAP! All the rock I liked at landscaping stores was $150 a yard. I got 8 yards of this stuff for $175 delivered straight from the quarry.

See the link to my home in my signature for pictures.

Whether you go with bark or rock make sure you put down a good weed barrier (breathable not plastic) between the earth and whatever you use.

Good luck and post pics when your done.

Dan

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Postby bitzala » Mon Oct 02, 2006 7:40 am

thanks, robbhouston and STLModern, for posting your pics. They look great. I was never inclined toward the bark, but hearing the stories of more insects did help to confirm steering clear of the substance.

We ended up going with Mexican beach pebbles for the planter by our pool. They look good. My son's birthday party was yesterday, and the kids enjoyed the rocks too-- a little too much. Many of the pebbles are now at the bottom of the pool :evil: .

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Postby kjansma » Mon Oct 02, 2006 1:16 pm

Take heart in knowing that no matter what you chose, the kids would have thrown it in the pool. If I'm in the pool with the gate open, the 18 month old sneaks over with a bucket of sand from the sandbox.


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