How To Remove Rocks From Soil

Last Updated on April 16, 2024 by Real Men Sow

Gardeners who want to have a lush and healthy lawn or garden do not want rocks in their soil. Stones not only make gardens less appealing but can also cause damage to plants. It is essential to understand the most efficient and effective methods to remove rocks from topsoil.

There are three great ways to get rid of rocks from topsoil.

  1. Picking out large rocks manually and then sifting for smaller rocks.
  2. Use a wheelbarrow and a tiller.
  3. To remove stones, use a tractor, plow, screen or sifter.

Why Should Rocks be Removed from the soil?

If you are planting a garden, and find rocks in the soil, it is possible that they could be a problem. Although stones are not alive and are unlikely to cause any harm if they are not present in the soil. They also don’t eat or steal nutrients, which is why a few rocks won’t make much of a difference.

However, this doesn’t mean you should leave too many rocks in the soil because these rocks could do the following: 

  • Block root growth by preventing them from getting the nutrients they need. Plants will not survive if they don’t have the necessary nutrients. 
  • Rocks can occupy growing space that plants require and an excessive amount of stones can cause congestion and eat away at plants’ vital space. Therefore, plants will die due to not having enough room to grow.
  • Too many rocks can eventually make the topsoil stiffer. This will make it easier for water to escape the soil, which will result in plants not being able to absorb the water they need.

How to Remove Rocks from soil

There are three main methods to remove rocks. You can either manually use a tiller, wheelbarrow, or rake. For larger areas, you can also use more powerful machinery. Although it’s more efficient than the other methods, it can be more time-consuming and more energy than other gardening techniques. Although it will take you less time, using a tiller and rake or wheelbarrows may be more efficient.

Both are excellent options. However, it may be obvious that an area with a lot of rocks should be treated with a tractor rather than trying to remove them manually. It all depends on where you live and how much money you have. It’s not recommended to buy a tractor solely for the purpose of taking out topsoil rocks.

Manual Removal

It is easy to remove rocks by hand. If time is not an issue, then removing stones by hand is the best choice. You only need a few materials to remove the stones quickly and easily. Manual removal is far more efficient and is highly recommended.

You will need a shovel, container, screen, or sifter. For this task, you will need gardening gloves, good shoes, and comfortable clothes. This task will take you at least an hour in the garden. Be safe and comfortable.

  1. Survey the area where the garden will be planted – Mark the area to be used for gardening. This will make it easier to remove rocks and will also help you see how much.
  2. Find medium-to-large-sized rocks and remove them – Grab larger stones and boulders by hand before you toss them. Before you get out any tools, take a look around the area to find any larger rocks.
  3. Dig 10-12 inches deep –  Use a shovel to dig 10-12 inches deep in the garden area. Place the soil in the container.
  4. Place the screen/sifter on the top of the container – You can buy one already made or you can make your own using expanded metal and chain link.
  5. Sift the Soil – The screen will process the topsoil and keep rocks in the container. You should ensure that the filter is not too small to allow even the smallest rocks to pass.
  6. Remove all rocks – After all the soil is sifted through, only the stones should remain in the container. Move on to the next part of the garden by removing any rocks.
  7. Continue this process – It is important to divide the garden so that it is easy to see which areas have been sifted. Continue to dig through the topsoil to at least 10-12 inches in depth.

Using a Tiller, Rake, and Wheelbarrow

This second method combines both the efficiency of manual rock removal with a piece of simple machinery. This is a great option to remove rocks as it uses different materials to do the job faster and more efficiently. You will need a tiller, a rake, and a wheelbarrow. Next, follow these steps:

  1. Place the tiller in the appropriate area of your garden – A tiller, or another piece of equipment, is a great way to quickly and easily loosen the soil. It can be difficult to dig a shovel in rock-hard sand. It will save you time and cut down on the amount of shoveling.
  2. Take out large and medium-sized stones – The large and medium-sized stones will be visible while you till the soil. These boulders and rocks can be picked up and thrown into the wheelbarrow.
  3. Rake the topsoil – Use a rake to gently rake the topsoil. Keep raking until there are no more stones. You can either toss them in a wheelbarrow or keep them for decoration.
  4. Use the wheelbarrow to sift the soil – You can also use a rake or other tools to remove the topsoil. You can even equip the wheelbarrow to have a screen for sifting!

You can remove unwanted rocks from your garden with just a few tools. This is a great method because you don’t have to be on your knees the entire time, but it still allows for efficient removal.

Using a Tractor

People who have to deal with large areas that are impacted by rocks won’t be able to spend their entire day picking out rocks. Consider using the tractor method, especially if you have one. You will need a tractor, a plow and a screen. These are the steps to success:

  1. Attach the plow to your tractor – This step is essential or you risk a mishap that will cause damage to the tractor and cause the gardener to be forced to start over.
  2. Use the plow to lift the ground – First, the plow is used to loosen the topsoil. This will allow the soil and rocks to be scooped up easier.
  3. After the soil has been loosened, scoop up as much as your tractor can lift – It’s best that you work in sections, just as you would with manually removing rocks. If necessary, be patient and work in sections.
  4. Use a screen that will allow you to sift the topsoil – While the topsoil is being sifted through, the screen will hold the pebbles and rocks back.
  5. Place the soil that has been separated back in the garden – To await the seeds and plants to be planted, the ready-to-use topsoil should be placed in the garden.

Although it is simple to remove rocks with a tractor, it can be more time-consuming than manually. It is recommended for larger gardens and those who are unable to do the job manually.

Tips for Removing Rocks from soil

These are some more tips and tricks to help you remove rocks from your garden.

  • Never use a lawnmowerLawn Mowers that come in contact with rocks can be quickly destroyed. It is best to not use this type of mower when you are removing topsoil. Lawnmowers can also throw rocks at high speeds, which can cause injury to people and animals.
  • Remove Rocks before Planting – Do not attempt to solve the rock problem once you have planted. This can quickly destroy your hard work and cause damage to plants. Before you plant seeds or plants, make sure you have a thorough sifting of the rock problem.
  • Dig 10-12 inches below the surface – The rocks may not be visible, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they aren’t there. Roots may come into contact with rocks beneath the surface. These can either block their nutrients or take up too much space. Make sure you go at least 10-12 inches below the surface.

What Can Be Done With All Those Leftover Rocks

  1. Clean The Rocks – People don’t like rocks that are dirty or unappetizing. But, you can clean them. It is possible to find beautiful, clean rocks. You can use them as decorations by giving them a good rinse.
  2. Use Them in your Yard – Rocks can be beautiful and used as decorations in the yard by some people. Give the stones a good scrub and choose a place to put them in the garden. You can paint them to make them stand out. It can be a family affair!
  3. Get Rid Of Them – It is possible to get rid of the rocks if you are totally anti-rock in your backyard.

Plants That Can Live in Rocky Soil

What plants are best suited for rocky soil? There are many options available, such as:

  • Herbaceous Perennials – These plants are hardy and will not be affected by rocks or nutrients. (e.g Coneflower, Rose Campion, and Butterfly Weed.)
  • Herbs – Some herbs, such as sage oregano, can thrive in rocky environments.
  • Succulents – They’re known for their modern appearance and are desert plant that requires minimal nutrients to thrive. You can also find a wide variety of succulents, which will allow you to have a colorful and varied garden.
  • Juniper Trees – Juniper Trees can thrive in rocky environments so give it a try.
  • Ferns – Bushes can add a beautiful dimension to any backyard. However, they require a lot of nutrients and good soil. However, fern doesn’t require this and is an excellent choice for rocky soils.
  • Ornamental grasses<span style=”font-weight: 400;”> – They can provide a breathtaking view for any backyard that covers the rocks with ease.
  • Desert Sage – The striking and colorful desert sage is a great choice. It is a wonderful addition to any backyard, and it adds an extra dose of style and attitude.
Real Men Sow
Real Men Sow

Hello, I’m Pete and I’m currently based in the west of Scotland, in a small place called Rosneath, where I’m exploring my garden adventures. I personally started gardening around 6 years ago and initially, I started out by growing my favorite fruits and berries, such as strawberries, Raspberries & Gooseberries. Since then I’ve added a lot of vegetables and working closely with my neighbor, it’s been a lot of fun.