Reusing Rock Mulch . . . . Good idea or Bad idea???

Written by our designer and co-owner, Chelsa, based off a personal experience, enjoy!  Note, this article was originally written in June 2017.

A couple summers ago my family and I redid a small section of our front yard.  

This was done because we kept getting standing water in our garage after even the smallest rain storm.  When we were talking and discussing how to go about this problem we came up with the solution of a dry creek bed for the following reasons: 

  1. it would ideally direct water away from our garage, 
  2. it would provide something other than grass to step onto for people exiting their cars in our driveway, and 
  3. it would reuse some of the rock in our backyard where we wanted to put grass.  

As the saying goes “Hell is paved with good intentions, not with bad ones.  All men mean well.”  – George Bernard Shaw

A previous employer always told me to never reuse rock and I never quite understood . . . well, now I do.

A few things to know before we get into the story. . . .  We were on a tight budget for this project and were tight on time because we were constantly getting water in our garage.  Also we were working on reconfiguring our backyard so we had material, specifically rock mulch, that we thought we were being clever by reusing in our front yard.  Now I will say this, we saved almost $100 on this project by using the rock we had existing.  And bonus, we didn’t have to rent a truck to remove the rock from our property (which note most landfills will not accept rock making it very hard and very expensive to dispose of).  Down side, because the rock had sat in our backyard for at least 10 years before we moved in it was full of sediment and blown in soil.  

Now this sediment exists even in new rock from your local rock yard, but what that new rock, generally, does not include is the seed of every weed from your yard and your neighbors yard and their neighbors yard.  Okay, maybe I am exaggerating a little, or maybe I’m not, we have an open field behind our property.

The big hail storm of July 2016 came through within a week of us finishing this little project and every plant intentionally planted was destroyed, however a week later the creek bed was green!  Can you guess why? . . . . . . That is right, all of those evil weed seeds that we moved from our backyard were now in our brand new creek bed.  BUT . . . we didn’t have water in our garage for the first time since we had moved in.

Now . . . for the pros and cons of reusing existing rock.  

Advantage, it gave my, at the time, 1 year olds something to do.  They loved yanking on all of those green things.  HOWEVER, a year later we were still working on pulling weeds, though the landscape fabric has helped immensely with the ease of pulling everything.  (All of the weeds are sitting on top of the fabric so we  just had to shake the rocks a little and the weeds popped out.)  We ALWAYS recommend a heavy duty or commercial grade landscape fabric under your rock.

Another advantage of reusing rock mulch . . . we saved money.  

Time for the disadvantages . . . .  WEEDS!  I can not stress that enough.  And a lot of time/labor hours moving and shifting that rock.

Would I reuse rock mulch again?  Probably not.  

If you have a tight budget for your landscape it may be your only option, that is okay, but immediately put down a pre-emergent.  This will prevent those nasty little seeds from coming up.  Continue to put down pre-emergent at the beginning of every season (Mid-March to 1st of April for Colorado).

  • Chelsa Scoggin, June 2017

Want more information?  Check out our youtube video: where our designer talks more about reusing rock in your landscape.