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Compare Wood Mulch vs Rock Mulch Costs

Wood Mulch Overview

Wood is one of several varieties of organic mulch - meaning mulch that breaks down over time, adding nutrients to the soil. Like other types of mulch, it is used to prevent weed growth and improve the look of your garden or landscaping.

There are many varieties of wood mulch, including bark mulch cedar, pine and even cypress.

How Much Does Wood Mulch Cost?

You can buy wood mulch by the bag at a local home improvement store or purchase it in bulk from a local landscaping company, garden center or co-op. Buying in bulk is usually a better deal, unless you need just a small amount.

Bags of basic hardwood mulch, which hold 2 cubic feet, cost about $3 to $4 each. Higher quality wood such as cedar sells for as much as $7 per bag.

If you’re buying in bulk from a local dealer, budget anywhere from $15 to $40 per cubic yard (one cubic yard covers about 100 square feet with a 3-inch layer of mulch). Basic hardwood mulch falls on the low end of that price range, while designer mulch or playground mulch falls on the higher end. Delivery usually costs extra, but only about $20 to $100, depending on your location.

Average Mulch or Rock Prices

Wood Mulch Pros

  • Adds nutrients - Because it is an organic material, wood mulch adds nutrients to the soil, helping your plants thrive.
  • Regulates soil temperature - Organic mulches help regulate your soil temperature, preventing some heat loss in the winter and warming up the soil sooner in the spring.

Wood Mulch Cons

  • Breaks down - One downside to organic mulch is that it will break down eventually and needs to be replaced every so often.
  • Attracts pests - Wood-eating pests such as termites can make a feeding ground out of your mulch bed. If termites are prevalent in your area, you may want to consider a different type of mulch.

Rock Mulch Overview

Rock mulch is a type of inorganic mulch. Much like wood mulch, it helps prevent weed growth and improves the look of your landscape. Rock mulch will not break down over time, but it also doesn’t add nutrients to the soil.

With rock mulch, a wide variety of colors and designs are available. You can opt for a traditional gray color or go bold with a brighter color.

How Much Does Rock Mulch Cost?

Rock mulch is more expensive than wood mulch. It sells for about $4 to $5 per bag at a big box store, but keep in mind that bags of rock mulch only contain about 0.5 cubic feet of material - four times less than a bag of wood mulch.

Local dealers sell mulch in bulk either by the ton or the cubic yard. Budget anywhere from $25 to $75 per ton, depending on the size of the rock and its quality, and $40 to $110 per cubic yard (which covers about 100 square feet with a 3-inch layer of mulch).

Rock Mulch Pros

  • Doesn’t break down - Like all inorganic mulch, rock mulch doesn’t break down over time. You’ll spend less over the long term because you won’t have to keep replacing it.
  • More color choices - Rock mulch comes in a variety of styles and colors. It’s a great option if you’re trying to create a unique look.

Rock Mulch Cons

  • No nutrients - Rock mulch doesn’t add nutrients to the soil. It won’t harm your plants, but it won’t help them to grow either.
  • Won’t regulate soil temperature - Unlike wood mulch, rock mulch doesn’t help regulate the soil temperature.
  • Heavier - Because rock mulch weighs so much more than wood mulch, it is more difficult to lay and spread.

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