How to Remove Rocks from Soil and How to Deal with It

You are thinking about having your own lush veggie or flower garden, so you want to learn how to remove rocks from soil effectively and efficiently – and most likely, inexpensively.

Beautiful garden results from hard work and extensive labor, but you won’t be able to achieve such a beauty with rocks and stones on the soil.

You are thinking about removing those big rubles and gravel, but there are just too many of them.

You think that you may have to spend years to finally clear them out, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be that way. That’s why you want to learn how to remove them effectively – and fast. 

Problems with Rocks on Your Yard Soil 

Problems with Rocks on Your Yard Soil 

Why should you learn about how to remove rocks from soil? The problem with rocky soil is that it can lead to various issues in your garden.

Rocks are able to damage the (gardening) equipment quite seriously. Not to mention that it causes the plants to have difficulty in growing, especially the deep-rooted types.

Main Problem

What if you want to build an addition or a new feature in the yard? The rocks will definitely interfere with it. 

Gardeners wanting to grow a thriving and lush lawn would hate it to see rocks found on the topsoil.

Aside from the already mentioned reasons, stones make the yard less attractive. And let’s not talk about the adverse effects on the plants either because such a thing is obvious.

That’s why clearing out the yard would be a logical thing to do. The problem is: the work to clear out the stones can be super complicated and tedious by hand.

Alternative Methods

So, what are your alternatives? Which methods to choose?

Another reason to learn about how to remove rocks from soil is related to safety and aesthetic.

Gravel and decorative rocks can be appealing as they add visual element to your landscape setting and design.

However, rocks will also prevent your flowers and plants from expanding and growing. Rocks within the soil will block the (plant) roots from reaching the water and also nutrient sources.

It will make the soil go stiff after a while. In the end, plants will lack of not only nutrients but also the needed growing space. Rocks can cause safety issue, especially for the lawn mower.

As it was mentioned before, rocks can damage your mowing equipment. It is possibly injuring you too if the mower accidentally throws a rock (or in some rare cases, several rocks). 

Knowing Areas Where Rocks Grow

Knowing Areas Where Rocks Grow

You probably wonder why rocks can grow on your yard. You believe that your yards were clean of debris and rocks and stones, but now, the yard is full of those things.

is there something magical about the appearance of the stones?

Before you can learn about how to remove rocks from soil, it would be better if you can learn about the appearing of the rocks, which includes why they can ‘grow’. 

You see, places with chilly and freezing winters will likely have quite often and more frequent appearing of the rocks than places where the winters are quite mild or even warm.

The cold can freeze the grounds, which become the reason why you can the stones well up to the top surface from beneath the ground.

In eastern areas of America, this phenomenon is called as “New England potatoes’. 

Stones are good heat conductor. They are even better than soil in conducting heat. Stones can conduct the heat away from the (warmer) soil underneath.

This action will cause the soil (which is located under the rock) to be colder. Moreover, it will freeze before the dirt within the similar depth.

It’s a basic science, really. When water freezes, it would expand. When water within the soil (underneath the rock) freezes, it would expand and then push the rock slightly up. 

What happens then? Well, the ground thaws, there would be space under the stones. The space is filled with dirt, making the stones rest with a slight higher position.

Overtime, the process happens repeatedly: freezing, and then expansion, followed by the upward push, and then underneath filling.

The rocks would be shoved upward to the surface eventually, and there you have your rocks and stones on the ground.

This is a handy knowledge aside from the facts about how to remove rocks from soil

Removing the Stones with Appropriate Tools

Removing the Stones with Appropriate Tools

Proper rock removal process requires the proper machine. It depends on the rock type and how much should you spend to remove it.

So, what are the possible tools to use?

  • Rototiller. It helps break the dirt so the soil will lose up, exposing bigger rocks. If you have a smaller garden, a cultivator would be enough. You can rent either rototiller or a cultivator at your local (hardware) store. Even Home Depot can cater to such a service. It’s likely that the price range would be between $25 and $50
  • Garden rake. This is useful to gather all gravels together. Simply buy one as it won’t hurt the wallet. A rake will cost you around $15 to $30, depending on the size
  • Gardening gloves. This is your protective gear when you clear out the garden, especially when you rake the rocks. A good pair of gloves only cost around $5, and they are enough to prevent painful blisters.
  • Wheelbarrow. This is handy when you want to remove the rocks OUT of your yard. This is one crucial tool in this project, so include it in your list when you learn about how to remove rocks from soil. The price may vary, usually set between $40 and $120. It depends on the size, capacity, and also brand. If your garden is located in an uneven area or you have a steep layout, buckets are handy to transport and remove smaller rocks
  • Pointed shovel. Once you use the rake to gather small rocks and gravel, you use the pointed shovel to pick up or scoop them. A good quality shovel won’t cost you a fortune; it’s usually less than $30
  • Soil sifter. If you have unused net or screen, you can make use of it to sift rocks easily from the soil. Simply place it over the wheelbarrow to make the process easier. You can either make your own or make use of the unused one. But if you decide to buy one, expect to spend around $20 to $40 for a good quality sifter. 

Manual Method

One method on how to remove rocks from soil is to use your hands, literally. Yes, you will have to spend several hours on your own, but it doesn’t require any complicated machines or tools.

You don’t have to deal with messy garden or chaotic landscape, really. 

In general, you only need a sifter, a container, and a shovel. Comfy clothes and a good pair of good quality gloves would be enough.

You want to stay comfortable because you will spend at least several hours, so it is crucial. 

What should you do? 

  • First of all, survey the garden. Check the area that you want to plant. You should put a mark on it. It will make the process less complicated and you have clearer ideas of how much stones (and rocks) to remove. 
  • Located the big and medium rocks. Remove them first. Simply pick them and toss them into the wheelbarrow. You just need to clear out the garden from any unwanted big rocks
  • Dig the soil. Do it by digging up to 10 inches (12 inches, max) to the top soil. Place the soil into the wheelbarrow that has a sifter over it. To make the process easier, you want to divide the gardening area up. You can sift the rocks quite efficiently with this way, surely getting rid of the rocks, rubbles, and stones along the way. 
  • Remove and get rid of those rocks. This is when the wheelbarrow functions perfectly. With it, you can remove all the rocks and continue to the next area. 
  • Move on with the process until the entire area is cleared out from those rocks. This is why sectioning the garden is crucial. It helps you to know which one that has been sifted thoroughly, and which one hasn’t. 

Simple Tools For Remove Rocks From Soil

Simple Tools and Manual Removal Combo

If you use this method on how to remove rocks from soil, you can actually remove the rocks effectively.

It’s because of the various tools and materials, leading to more efficient and faster method.

You don’t need any fancy equipment. A combo of wheelbarrow, a rake, and a tiller would be enough. 

How do you manage to do it?

  • Again, you need to divide the garden into different areas. 
  • Start from a designated area by using the tiller. It will loosen the soil up quite easily and quickly. Then, by using the shovel, dig into the rock-hard sand. That’s why you want to loosen it first because it will cut the shoveling time down quite significantly. 
  • Remove the big and medium rocks. When you till the soil, the medium and big stones will definitely appear. Simply pick them up and then just put them to your wheelbarrow. 
  • Rake topsoil. The rake will help you sift the topsoil because it will definitely touch the unwanted pebbles and rocks. Rake and rake until there aren’t many stones left. You can put them to the wheelbarrow. If you are thinking about repurposing those rocks, separate the ones you want to get rid off from the ones you want to re-use later on. 
  • Sift with the wheelbarrow. You can use a wheelbarrow and a sifter (a net) to remove the stones from the soil. Of course, the wheelbarrow to sift the soil should be different from the one you are using to get rid of the stones. Put the net or a sifter over the (sifting) wheelbarrow and toss the soil you dig through it. The soil should pass smoothly while the rocks would stay on top of the sifter. This way can be effective if you don’t have any rake. Or, if you do have a rake, but you don’t really want to use it to sift the topsoil through, then the sifting wheelbarrow can be a good option. 

Get Rid of Rocks Using the Tractor

Get Rid of Rocks Using the Tractor

This method on how to remove rocks from soil is effective if you have big garden and big rocks and boulders. This is the reason why you should use heavy machinery.

You can start by attaching the plow on your tractor. The plow is functional to loosen up the ground. Once it is done, scoop the ground (as much as you can).

You still need to do this based on sections – just like you can apply on manual work. You should sift (the topsoil) through the available screen.

Afterwards, place the already separated soil back to your garden. 

Repurposing the Rocks For Your Garden

Repurposing the Rocks For Your Garden

You can actually make use of the rocks for decorating the garden. This is applicable for medium to bigger rocks.

Instead of leaving them lying on the ground, why not repurposing them? It’s a part of effective method on how to remove rocks from soil

  • Clean those rocks. The main reason why people dislike rocks is because they are unappealing and dirty. But try cleaning them. You may find a clean and nice rock, which can be beautiful. Even in their bare appearance, they can be a good decoration. 
  • Paint them. If the rocks have naturally good appearance on their own (they have beautiful colors with unique appearance or unique patterns), simply place them as garden decoration. But if you want to, you can always paint them. A lot of creative homeowners paint their rocks to make their gardens more appealing. Check the internet; you should be able to find inspirations and examples. You can make it an interesting family activity where kids can be involved. 

If you aren’t really into rocks at all, then simply remove them. Just dispose them and you won’t be dealing with any fuss or complication. 

Final Words

Those are ways to deal with boulders, rocks, and stones on your yard. There are various facts and functions that you can learn from this article.

But you can actually learn about how to remove rocks from soil and how you can learn (and take benefits) from it. 

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