Many plants don’t like rocky soil, but it can come with a few benefits. Is having rocks in your garden a good idea?
It’s not bad to have rocks in your garden, as long as they aren’t large and there aren’t too many. Gravel and small stones are fine as they don’t prevent plants from absorbing nutrients and can add some drainage. Rocks also protect soil from erosion and stop water from evaporating too fast.
So, it’s only bad to have rocks in your garden if there are too many. You’ll want to keep reading to learn more, so you can decide whether to remove the rocks. Here’s what you should know!
Why Having Rocks in a Garden Isn’t Bad
Rocks are common and natural, so you’ll find them anywhere, including in your garden. Generally, you won’t need to worry about them. Small amounts of rocks in the soil can help with drainage and aeration.
Rocks also contain essential minerals that they add to the soil, which plants need. If you remove all the stones, your soil won’t have enough nutritional content for your plants to thrive. Rocks can even reduce the number of weeds you must deal with in your garden.
Additionally, rocks retain heat in the soil, which is suitable for most outdoor gardens. If you’re in a cooler area, rocks will insulate your plants and keep them healthy. However, you won’t want as many stones if you’re somewhere warm because you could overheat your plants.
So, you’ll need to assess the condition of your garden to determine if it’s terrible to have rocky soil. Generally, rocks are fantastic to have in a garden in moderation. You don’t want your plants to be overrun with stones.
How Many Rocks in a Garden Is Too Many?
It can be difficult to tell how many rocks in a garden are too many. In general, you should be able to scoop out some dirt from your garden and see that it’s mostly soil. It’s okay if some pebbles are in the scoop, but it shouldn’t be more than half rocks.
If you’re scooping up mostly rocks, it will be very challenging to grow anything in your garden.
You’ll also want to check for large rocks. Sometimes massive rocks block plants from spreading their roots out under the ground. They can be worse for gardens than many small stones since roots can’t get around them, and they can trap water in your garden, so you’ll have to take the time to remove them. Sometimes, if the large rock is deep enough, you don’t need to worry about it causing trouble.
Some plants like rocky soil, so you’ll need to consider what you’re going to grow in the garden before you try removing them. You might discover that you don’t need to!
Why Are Rocks Good for Gardens?
Rocks are good for gardens because they help reduce evaporation and erosion and can insulate your plants. A layer of stones over a garden can also help prevent weed growth. There are plenty of benefits to consider.
If you’re watering your plants too frequently and they still look dry, adding some stones to the surface may help. With a layer of gravel in place, water will take much longer to evaporate out of the soil. If you try this, you’ll want to take care not to cause root rot.
Remember that you’ll find rocks everywhere. Most plants can adapt to stones in the soil— they’ll simply grow their roots around them. It’s not an issue unless there are too many buried rocks for them to work around.
Overall, havings rocks in your garden aren’t bad; they’re supposed to be there. Many gardeners enjoy rearranging them to look nice among their plants.
When Is Having Rocky Soil Bad?
However, having too many rocks or a few huge ones can cause issues. You’ll know that you have rocky soil if you notice that the garden has a considerable amount of gravel when you dig. It could even be mostly gravel, which would be bad for many gardens.
Extremely rocky soil stops your plant’s roots from digging through the soil, which can cause them to become crowded and lack the nutrients they need to grow.
Plus, if you’re somewhere warm, the rocks will continue heating the soil during the night. The added insulation can cause the soil to dry out faster, leaving your garden plants thirsty and wilting.
Large amounts of rocks in the earth will also change its pH level to be more alkaline. Some plants like alkaline conditions, although most prefer the soil to be more acidic. The plants won’t absorb nutrients correctly if the dirt doesn’t meet its desired requirements.
In short, it’s not bad to have rocks in your soil unless there are too many. If there are, the stones will cause many issues. Mainly crowded roots and plants that can’t absorb the nutrients they need to survive. You’ll need to dig out the rocks if you notice these problems in your garden.
How To Remove Rocks From a Garden
You can remove rocks from a garden using a rake. All you need to do is drag the rake through the garden, then pick out the stones. It helps if you have a container to put them in.
While a rake works great for small stones, you might hit a few larger ones while raking. If that happens, you’ll need to follow these steps:
- Dig around the rock using a shovel or trowel.
- Drill several holes in the rock using a rotary hammer.
- Place a wedge and two feathers into the hole you created.
- Hammer the wedges until they form cracks.
- Keep striking the wedges until the rock breaks apart.
- Pry out the broken pieces using a shovel or digging bar.
- Repeat until you can remove the entire rock.
Sometimes, rocks will be too dense to remove on your own. You may want to contact a landscaper since they can access professional tools. It’s also much easier for a team to remove a massive rock than for you to do it alone.
Keep in mind that you can ignore rocks that are deep enough in the earth. If it’s just below where you plan on planting your garden, you might not need to remove it. Instead, you can add compost and soil over the large rock. As long as your plants can spread their roots deep enough, the stone isn’t in the way.
If you would like to explore your options to separate stones from your soil, check out my article: How to Separate Stones from Your Soil (DIY Guide)
How To Garden in Rocky Soil
Even if you have rocky soil, you don’t need to give up on gardening. There are a few solutions to try. Here are the best options for most people:
- Rake the Rocks Out: Removing smaller rocks with a rake allows you to garden in your yard like normal. After removing all the stones, you can add a layer of compost for the plants to grow. It should be about five inches (12.7 cm) deep, allowing your plants to grow without the rocks.
- Try Growing Other Plants: There are plenty of garden plants that love rocky earth. Some of these include peppers, spinach, and potatoes. Many plants native to your area should also love the natural soil conditions in your yard.
- Try Fabric or Portable Pots: Portable pots also work well for starting a new, rock-free garden. Fabric pots, five-gallon (19 liters) buckets, and repurposed containers can all work exceptionally well for growing a garden. You’ll need to ensure you add drainage holes to any containers you use aside from the fabric grow bags.
- Try Using Raised Garden Beds: As a last resort, you can always use raised garden beds, then fill them with your own potting soil. If you use a storebought growing medium, there should be no rocks in the beds. You can grow anything you want in one of these garden beds too.
These methods work if your soil is too rocky to start a garden. You can carefully rake around rocks in a garden to remove them, although it’s much easier to do before any of your plants are in the way.
Fixing Rocky Soil
Fixing rocky soil isn’t too hard. First, use a rake, as mentioned above. Then, you’ll want to test the soil for nutrients. It’s also good to check its pH since stones can make the soil alkaline. From there, you simply do your best to adjust the soil to the best gardening conditions.
A good homemade compost is usually enough to add nutrients to the soil. You’ll also want to consider using fertilizer from time to time.
Lastly, you can change alkaline soil by adding compost, mulch, or sulfur. For most gardens, a few applications of compost are enough to fix the soil after removing the rocks.
I recommend the Luster Leaf Rapitest Test Kit from Amazon if you need a nutrient test kit. This option comes with 40 accurate tests for nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Plus, you get pH tests in the order. It’s perfect for when you’re trying to alter soil conditions.
To summarize, having rocks in a garden is not always bad. Stones can add more minerals to the soil and prevent erosion. Plus, they offer more benefits. When you have too many rocks, it becomes unhealthy for your garden plants.
Overall, you’ll want to think about the condition of your soil. Overly rocky soil can be harmful, depending on what you’re trying to grow. Some plants love the rocky ground, so you don’t need to abandon your garden but can switch to those plants instead.