Rocks, So Many Rocks

WaterfallGarden(7)May 3, 2014

I am cleaning an approx. 1000 sq foot area on my property that was formerly a poor lawn and I am going to turn it into a cottage garden.

I plan to spend this summer killing the lawn and preparing the soil with compost and mulch so I can start planting in the fall. The problem is that my soil is very rocky. Lots of small to medium size rocks (up to 6 inches) and I want to make them go away so it is easier to work in the area.

What is the most practical, cost effective way to get this task done?

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Ignore them and make raised beds on top of the rocky soil?

If you do lasagna gardening, AKA sheet composting, you can plant your cottage garden materials in the layers and not have to worry about the rocks.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2014 at 11:26PM
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I'm not sure where you live, but I grew up in Stone Ridge, NY, and the name says it all, with regard to rocks in the soil. The rocks were mostly rounded, so they must have been subjected to tumbling in a stream or river, and the area had been glaciated, so we were told that the rocks were left behind when the glaciers melted. A farmers field, subject to being plowed and planted, will have a windrow of rocks around the perimeter, typically 4 or 5 feet wide, and maybe two feet deep. The rocks are pulled out by hand, and hand carried over to the edges.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2014 at 12:47AM
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Those rocks are what the soil that is there came from, the mineral part, the sand, silt, or clay the soil is composed of. Numerous places have had large deposits of them and those are what the stacked stone walls were made from in
Ireland, England, New England, etc.
The only way to remove them is to pick them up and put them somewhere else, although more may come up next year. Even in the sand I have here I get stones every year.
You could build raised beds above that stony soil.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2014 at 6:19AM
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Ignore those rocks! I am living on a rock ....literally! The area was blasted before the house was built and you cannot put a spade into the ground w/out hitting a 50lb (at least rock) anywhere. I have mulched and lasagna'd (is that a word?) a large area in order to cut back the stiltgrass and where I had to, I dug up boulders but otherwise stones like yours provide excellent drainage and I remove them only while digging holes for planting just remove them as you go.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2014 at 6:37AM
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floral_uk z.8/9 SW UK

If you are going for a cottage garden the kinds of plants you will be growing and the freeness of the design would make it a waste of time attempting to remove the rocks imo. I'd just ignore them if I were you. They won't affect the plants. Particularly large ones could be removed but it will be a never ending task. Or they could be used to make stepping stones to access the garden.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2014 at 6:37AM
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I agree, it isn't necessary to de-rock. I have a quite rocky garden and now and then when sowing or transplanting I'll move rocks to the edge of a bed but mostly I leave them be.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2014 at 7:31AM
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The most practical and cost-effective way to reduce the number of rocks in your garden is by hand picking.

For years I gardened here with a rock bucket beside me and picked the large ones and eventually screened much of the soil for the the smaller ones. I could have skipped the screening but I really wanted fewer rocks. I still pick rocks occasionally.

The larger rocks here were 8"-12" in diameter and I've used some for edging and still have a large rock pile.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2014 at 10:22AM
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Here in pure glacial till they run from erratics many feet across to pebbles. No matter what others have or haven't done, plants grow just fine with rocks.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2014 at 11:37AM
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Thanks for the advice. I have glacial till here too (Pacific northwest). I thought about raised beds and decided that was not what I wanted.

It sounds like there is no easy solution and it isn't necessary to get rid of them all. A rock bucket and hand picking is probably my best bet, but I won't kill myself trying to get the rocks completely removed.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2014 at 12:57PM
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claireplymouth z6b coastal MA

It's pricy, but Lee Valley sells a Rock Rake that looks like it could be useful.

" No more stooping to pick them up or trying to rake them onto a spade. The rock rake picks them up for transfer to a wheelbarrow or bucket, or even for surreptitious dropping over a fence. It can also be used to catapult the stones some distance. "


    Bookmark   May 4, 2014 at 5:03PM
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toxcrusadr(Zone 6a - MO)

If you have big ones that need to be pried out of the ground, consider getting a pick-mattock. I like this one, with the extra long handle to avoid bending over so much.

Here is a link that might be useful: Easy Digging pick mattock

    Bookmark   May 5, 2014 at 5:27PM
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Ignore them. If you can make paths or low walls just by piling them around, great. But you will never, never completely de-rock (un-rock?) that much land. More will come up, always. Ask me how I know!!! Lasagna gardening, absolutely. Or just plant on top of them, but trust me, picking them out by hand - the largest ones - works, but is slow and the smaller ones, well, use them to smash snails. That's what I do.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2014 at 11:30AM
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toxcrusadr(Zone 6a - MO)

It's said that certain rocks have developed the ability to swim through soil and come up in your garden.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2014 at 12:00PM
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