I get this question all the time. Should we replenish the depleted and faded wood mulch, or should we switch to decorative rock. Both give a drastically different look, feel, and smell. Yes, I said smell. In either case make sure to have all new planting completed beforehand. Trying to fight the mulch or rock to plant some rose bushes is a mess.
With the smell aside, wood mulch is a annual product. After a long hard beating from the sun, and animals stealing it to make nest, the beds will need to be refilled every year. Mulch has about 1/4 the material cost and 1/8 the labor cost, it is clearly the most cost effective. Wheel barrows and shoves will get the mulch where it needs to go. Using a stiff rake to distribute the mulch. It will leave you with a nice and even look.
Dark and full, this will really help POP all the plants and flowers you have planted. So to fill 1,000 sq ft of landscape beds with 3' of mulch it will be 9.25 cubic yards, professionally installed at $65 per yard, $601.25. Most people are just refreshing the mulch. In this case you would only use around 3 cubic yards. So professionally installed at $65 per yard, $195.00 **BALLPARK NUMBERS**
Decorative rock is very durable, vibrant, and comes in a variety of colors and sizes. With these three quality's alone, rock is a better match for the landscaping needs for you home. There is however that tricky thing of cost. Ranging in cost from $30-$200 a cubic ton. It can get pricy pretty quickly. Filling in your 1,000 sq ft landscape beds with the proper amount can be as much as 12 tons of rock! Lets us not for get it doesn't magically jump into place. Oh no, it will quite literally break you down over time.
Wheel barrows and shovels are a good way to use that God given strength. But the smart money is on renting machinery like a Toro Dingo, or a Bobcat Mini Loader. So to fill 1,000 sq ft of landscape beds with 3' of rock it will be 12.5 cubic tons, professionally installed at $250 per cubic ton, it will be around $3,237.50 **BALLPARK NUMBERS**
Looking over the above data, we can see that it is either a initial cost, or a annual one. Yes, to start up and maintain mulch it is easier to swallow. Over the course of 10-15 years, the continual annual cost of mulch will catch up to the one time cost of decorative rock. So depending on your taste and maybe more so, your budget. In the end, it will cost around the same to have wood mulch installed annually or decorative rock installed just once.