So I have a lot of clients who want to use rocks on their landscape, and they always ask me if they will get weeds eventually.
Short answer: Yes. Yes, they will.
Of course, it depends on a lot of factors, like weather, season, and exposure to sun and/or water. In fact, you can learn a lot about your soil depending on the type of weeds you get.
But regardless, chances are you will get weeds eventually almost anywhere. Mother nature likes to cover itself and open spaces or mono spaces are opportunities for weeds like anywhere else. Luckily, covering parts of your soil with rocks deter weeds from growing since it’s less hospitable but over time seeds and debris will work its self into creating an environment for plants to grow.
There are other ways to keep weeds away for longer, though. If you want to have rocks in your landscape —as opposed to mulch, for example—, here are some tips that you might find helpful.
So what are weeds?
First, we need to understand what they are and where exactly weeds come from.
Most of us have an idea of what weeds are in our minds but, in reality, a weed is just any plant we don’t want in a certain place. For example, Calla Lily might be a desired plant in your garden. However, if it shows up in the middle of a boxwood hedge, you might consider a weed.
So how do weeds invade your rock mulch area? If you have trees and other plants around, it’s normal that stuff like leaves and branches to fall. This is what we call debris. When that debris decomposes, it can turn into soil and, when seeds fall in there naturally, it can create an environment for weeds to grow.
It’s also possible for weeds to poke up from the soil underneath even if you have landscape fabric. This happens less often but I see it sometimes with nut sedges, etc. I only really see this with new installations, but, if taken care of at the beginning, that can help keep them away.
OK, how do I get rid of them?
So, I always recommend placing a landscape fabric under the gravel. This creates a barrier for weeds from below and also stops the gravel from being pressed into the soil and being lost over time. This will also ensure that whatever debris or seeds fall on the ground doesn’t get absorbed by the soil.
Keep in mind, though, over time debris will work its way in between the rock. To help deter this, a light clean-up over time will do the trick. I usually recommend using a battery blower every few weeks to remove and then you can collect the fallen leaves and throw them into a compost pile. I personally use the Stihl BGA 57 part of their AK system.
However over time —every 5 years or so—, it might be worth it to clear out all the rocks, remove any debris, and put the rocks back in place. Although this takes a little more effort, it’s a lot more affordable to DIY than removing and starting from scratch. Plus rocks don’t really lose form or value. They just need a little decluttering and they’ll look brand new!
You might also want to replace the landscape fabric, depending on how old or what condition it’s in.
I know what you’re thinking: it sounds like a lot of work! However, it really is what I’d consider standard upkeep. Just like you vacuum your house every few weeks, consider blowing off your gravel as needed. And then every few years you might decide to buff the floors —AKA clean the debris from your gravel.
It’s a little bit of a pain in the butt, but well worth it when you’re done!