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landscape rock and gardens don't mix...

Posted by twohuskies z4A Mpls, MN (My Page) on
Fri, Mar 10, 06 at 17:16

I have a spot on the south side of my house with landscape rock (and some plastic underneath it)and very poor quality soil. Unfortunately, that is also the spot where the gardening bug hit a few years ago and I planted quite a few perennials. I knew at the time I should really remove the rock first, but I didn't see the harm of putting in a few plants. Well, now that area is fully planted and for the most part looks quite nice. As I planted I've pulled out as much of the plastic as possibe so there may not be much left. Here's the problem: the rocks are a major PITA when it comes time to add new plants or move existing ones around. Being the south side of the house I can imagine the rocks make it really hot. Also, the soil is poor quality and with the rocks it's nearly impossible to do anything about it.

I think I've finally accepted that the rocks need to go. The layer of rock isn't very deep (thank god!), maybe an inch or so. Just enough to cover the dirt. But what is the best way to do it?
*Should I try to maybe rake away as many as possible early spring before the perennials start to grow? Would that damage the crowns on my plants? I'm guessing it would..
*Should I dig up the perennials one by one, remove the rock, ammend the soil and replant?

Anyone have any other ideas?

Here's a picture showing half of the area
Image hosting by Photobucket


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: landscape rock and gardens don't mix...

If it were me, I would rake them out now. Of course try to be careful around the plants, but I suspect you may want to replace some of the rock layer with some compost. Have it ready when you rake, so you can recover newly exposed plant bases that should stay underground. Doesn't look to me like your flowers are lacking nutrients, so maybe that will be all you'll need.

Remember too, that you want to keep a slight grade away from the house to keep water away from the foundation. Removing the rock may destroy this grade, and you might have to compensate.


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RE: landscape rock and gardens don't mix...

Thanks for your advice. As for the grading next to the house, well it could easily stand to be improved and replacing the rock with other stuff will make that an easy task. The plants are all doing fine but the soil looks so powdery compared to the rest of my yard. I may also remove the two large hostas that burn up in the sun and use that prime location for more roses. Hah! Now I can justify buying a couple more..


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RE: landscape rock and gardens don't mix...

Hi there-
I remember seeing ads and hearing comments here last year about a vaccume that you can rent to suck up garden rocks- you might have to call around to the rental stores to see who may be carrying them- it may be that the area you are working in is small enough that you may not need it though-
I bet you could list the rocks on Craig's list and some one may come and haul them away for you if you don't have another use for them-
I have also put the cart before the horse and plunked in plants into new beds without ammending first- and have found that top dressing does help- as does ammending the soil as you dig- I always try to make a bigger deeper hole and add compost to the soil there before I put in a new plant and as I lift and divide. In some areas- especially along my south wall, I have added peat to increase moisture retentiveness as well-
I agree with Rick- your plants do look happy and healthy there- I do believe you have chosen well for that site!


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RE: landscape rock and gardens don't mix...

Do you have a powerful shop vac? That's what some people use to remove rock. My daughter had it around her place. We raked first, then hand picked where she had planted stuff and then shop vac'd....Amending the soil would be best if you can remove the plants and get them righ back in or just top dress if that isn't possible.


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RE: landscape rock and gardens don't mix...

I am completely mystified by a vacuum strong enough to pick up rocks, and not consume a cup of dirt along with. But I'm not knocking it! Whatever works is what I say. I guess I am blessed with no mulch rocks to deal with. In fact, when I bought this house, it had two shrubs and an arborvitae as foundation plants and they mowed around them.


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RE: landscape rock and gardens don't mix...

I hate landscape pepples(used in place of woodchips or other mulch). I had a heck of a time getting them out of a bed I was revamping for my sister. They're way too permanent and too much of a pain to change out!
Your space looks great that you planted- if you can't get rid of all that rock there are plenty of plants that love well draining powdery alkaline soil -like sedums, pinks, and purpal sage


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RE: landscape rock and gardens don't mix...

Hey everyone! Thanks for all your thoughts and compliments. I haven't heard of a rock vac before. Boy that sure would have made my life easier last year. I dug tons of rock from the front of my house. Lots of back breaking work and I still didn't get them all but that spot looks so much better now. The worst part about the rock around my house is the amount of dirt mixed in with them. They would be so much easier to remove if they were all above the dirt.

I may look into renting a rock vac (if I can find one) if it's not too expensive, but if I did that I would probably want to remove the rest of the rock out front too. That would make it worth it. I will most likely wind up raking or digging as many as I can before the plants come up. Maybe I can bribe my son to help me.. It probably wouldn't hurt to remove those two large hostas at the same time. I'm sure they will come out in a million chunks..


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RE: landscape rock and gardens don't mix...

We have this problem several places around the yard and decided to dig it all out. I made a screen that we use for separating the rock from soil. The screen rests on top of the wheelborrow; we dig up the rock/soil mix, drop it onto the screen, move it back and forth with the shovel, and the soil drops through, leaving the rock in the screen. It is some work, but does a real good job.


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RE: landscape rock and gardens don't mix...

That's how we did it too, gary. Only we had TWO layers of dirt and weed infested rocks, with plastic under each layer. What a pain in the (every part of the body, really)!

Landscaping rock ranks up there as one of the dumbest ideas of mankind.


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RE: landscape rock and gardens don't mix...

My whole backyard was landscaped in lava rocks. I first started by adding plants between the rocks. Just dig a bigger hole twice the size of the plant and filled it with good soil and popped the plant in. Then I needed more room so I started moving rock bucket by bucket. I used a hand towel that had 4 claws which I raked and raked. SOme of my rock was 7 inches deep. I still am moving rock to this day. My backyard rock is mostly gone where I have several perennial gardens. In my front yard I am moving the lava rock and putting hostas in. I have maybe 40 different varieties of Hostas and theres rock all around them. I should of removed all the rock but eventually I probably will. THe only advantage of the rock is that plants tend not to spread. Best of Luck!


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RE: landscape rock and gardens don't mix...

leavesweave - same here! I was so excited when we first moved into our house becuase the previous owner had ripped out all the old overgrown srubs and had put in minimal new stuff. Clean slate I thought -this will be fun. Then with the first shovel I found that the previous landscape rock and plastic had NOT been removed - they just put dirt over top of it. Uhg. How STUPID? And he PAID someone to do this!


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RE: landscape rock and gardens don't mix...

Thanks you guys. It looks like I'm not the only one that has this to deal with. I just hate rock around the house! I know getting rid of it is well worth the work. I guess it's just time to get to it. I suppose the snow has to melt first though... I would like to expand that area a little more. Maybe leave enough grass so I can make 1 pass with the lawn mower. That area is completely safe from my dogs so I want to make the most of it.


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RE: landscape rock and gardens don't mix...

I have several large sections of shrubs and weeds and landscape rock around the house that I want to remove. I started and a friend told me about a rock vacuum. I went to look at one at the rental company and it was quite large on a trailer. I would see the only way to get this into the backyard would be to drive it over the lawn around the house behind the car. Quite a project and i am concerned about damage to the lawn. Even in the front yard it would be a project and they want $200.00 a day to rent this so I would have to work fast. Does anyone know of a smaller rock vacuum? I see someone mentioned a shopvac but I can't see that picking up 1.5" river rock. This vacuum does have a filter for the dirt so that wouldn't be a problem. Any and all suggestions would be appreciated.


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