Need suggestions on ground cover under aspens

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llO0DQLE
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Need suggestions on ground cover under aspens

Postby llO0DQLE » May 17th, 2017, 6:23 pm

My wife, influenced by my father-in-law, wants to get rid of the mulch under the trees. Their reasons are that it will get covered by leaves and turn to dirt as both leaves and mulch decompose and that we can't possibly remove the leaves from the mulch completely as they fall and accumulate. They want to replace the mulch with rocks. I don't want rocks as they will spill into the lawn even if I had the time or budget to put some concrete edging to retain them, which I don't.

Any suggestions? Any arguments for keeping mulch instead of rocks? I thought mulch was preferred around trees and that leaves themselves were good mulch as well?

See pics below.

https://flic.kr/p/UGwvmk

https://flic.kr/p/UU65Gc
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llO0DQLE
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Location: Edmonton, AB Canada
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Re: Need suggestions on ground cover under aspens

Postby llO0DQLE » May 17th, 2017, 8:26 pm

Seems like I can't edit my post so here's the pics without having to click on the links..

ImageImage
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ken-n-nancy
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Re: Need suggestions on ground cover under aspens

Postby ken-n-nancy » May 17th, 2017, 9:29 pm

If you go with crushed rock, you'll want to have a physical border to keep the rock out of the lawn. We have crushed rock bordered by granite cobblestones / belgian block, which works well to keep the rock and lawn separated. It's important that the crushed rock not be higher than the cobblestone border, or you'll have rocks spill out into the lawn. However, if the top of the rocks are no higher than the top of the cobblestones, then very few rocks will escape. The occasional one that does jump out into the lawn can be easily picked up and tossed back when you mow. We chose to bury the cobblestones so that the top of the cobblestones is at lawn soil height, so that mowing is simplified by just running the mower wheels right on top of the row of cobblestones. If you're interested in a picture, I can probably take and post one so that you can see what we did.

The cobblestones aren't cheap, but they'll last a long time. :-)

For keeping weeds out of the crushed rock, we've found that it's important for the crushed rock to be large (2" screened is what we have - bigger would be even better!), and deep - at least 4 inches in depth, and preferably more. In order to get that depth of rock in that area, you'll need to dig out 4+ inches of mulch. The crushed rocks need to be big enough to let sand and dirt that blow in percolate down through the voids between rocks, rather than form a soil layer amidst the top layer of rocks. Pea gravel will look nice for a year or two, but will then load up with sand/dirt/silt and you'll be cursing yourself every year in having to weed the crushed rock, which is no fun. We had to hand-weed our former finer crushed rock for many years before changing our crushed rock approach a few years ago -- weeding crushed rock every month or so is no fun!

Crushed rock does have the advantage of being relatively easy to blow leaves off of, presuming you have a leaf blower. A leaf blower doesn't work well to blow leaves off of mulch, as the mulch gets picked up and blown, too.

If you ever decide in the future to change the area from crushed rock to something else, such as a flower bed, you'll be cursing the decision to have installed the crushed rock. First off, the crushed rock is heavy and difficult to remove. It's very hard to shovel and will require a lot of manual labor to get it out. Secondly, unless you put an excellent landscaping fabric on top of the excavated dirt before you install the crushed rock, you'll have a tremendous challenge actually getting all the rock out -- the rocks will work their way down into the soil, and you'll have a difficult time getting them all out. (Been there, done that, got the T-shirt.) I'd highly suggest putting a heavyweight landscaping fabric on top of the excavated soil before installing the crushed rock, to enable the possibility of getting the crushed rock all out in the future if you decide to switch to vegetation in the future (whether flowers, shrubs, or lawn).

On the other hand, an advantage of the crushed rock is that if you do it right once, it will last a long, long time with no maintenance other than blowing off leaves. Mulch will require periodic renewal; we supplement our mulch beds every year.

We have areas of both crushed rock and traditional mulched beds in our landscaping, and they each have their benefits.
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llO0DQLE
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Re: Need suggestions on ground cover under aspens

Postby llO0DQLE » May 18th, 2017, 12:53 am

Thanks for the detailed response KNN! You made a lot of really good points and answered some questions I didn't voice in the OP. I think I can picture the cobblestone but I would love to see pics if you have the time. No rush though. I do have a question with cobblestone/pavers as I was contemplating on using them in my previous place. I researched on how to do them properly and from what I gathered, you need to do a based of crushed rock and sand to level so that the stones stay nice and aligned and don't get pushed out of alignment due to frost heaves. Did you have to do that with yours? Also, I read you need to do edging and have the rock/sand base extend further past the cobblestones into the lawn so the grass on top of it will have only a couple inches of soil. Wouldn't that make the grass very susceptible to heat and drought, especially being next to hardscape? This issue alone prevented me on doing my edging project last year because I couldn't figure out a way to do it that satisfied all my concerns.

In your areas with mulch, do you get leaves in them from surround trees/shrubs? If so, do you just leave them there to decompose?
SNOWBOB11
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Re: Need suggestions on ground cover under aspens

Postby SNOWBOB11 » May 18th, 2017, 9:00 pm

I have retaining wall stones around 3 gardens in my front lawn that I installed a few years back. I never put any base under the stones and just used a rubber mallet to hammer the stones into the soil. There was some settling after a while but really they have stayed pretty nice and level. Having said that you will see lots of people say to use some base usually screening to level them before you install. It is a good idea especially if you are doing 1 row of stones. What worked for me was that I double staked the stones being it was a retaining wall and used construction adhesive to glue the stones together. Gluing them together helped keep them level. Screening is not too expensive either so it is something to consider.

With regards to the mulch, I have mulch in all the beds and end up re-mulching all the beds each year as leaves and debris get mixed into the mulch. I personally really like the look of mulched gardens especially the black mulch. If you buy something like the scotts naturescape the color will last for the hole season.

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llO0DQLE
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Location: Edmonton, AB Canada
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Re: Need suggestions on ground cover under aspens

Postby llO0DQLE » May 18th, 2017, 9:24 pm

Yeah I like black mulch and that's what I used in my previous lawn which had a garden bed in the middle. So regarding the edging, maybe I can just stack two on top of each other, glue it and bury it deep? You're in ON right so you still get to like -20 there?
SNOWBOB11
Posts: 63
Joined: February 20th, 2017, 1:05 am
Location: Southern ON, Canada
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Re: Need suggestions on ground cover under aspens

Postby SNOWBOB11 » May 18th, 2017, 9:37 pm

Yeah, it's not strange for us to drop to -20 or lower at times. I think it depends on what stones you use as to whether you want to double stack them. I used more of a retaining wall stone where as if you use more of a cobble stone you would probably just go for a single stack with a base underneath. This is what I picked up from lowes for around my gardens. https://www.lowes.ca/retaining-wall-blo ... ining-wall. They do come on sale for $0.99 at times, or at least they used to.
SNOWBOB11
Posts: 63
Joined: February 20th, 2017, 1:05 am
Location: Southern ON, Canada
Grass Type: Kentucky Bluegrass, Creeping Red Fescue, Perennial Rye Grass

Re: Need suggestions on ground cover under aspens

Postby SNOWBOB11 » May 18th, 2017, 9:39 pm

Just realized it says product is only available in ontario. Still you should be able to get something similar in your area if you choose to go that root.

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