The Rock Landscaper
By Lois Hoffman
My husband is a landscaper, not by profession but rather by destiny. When we bought our home 22 years ago we had a three-and-a-half acre lot with virtually no yard. The grass was only mown (and I use that term loosely) past the garage far enough for the previous owners to get their car in. My husband used a hay mower and then baled 42 bales of grass!
Then the landscaper in him went to work, the only problem was at that time we had no extra dollars to spend. So, he decided to use natural objects where the price was right, mostly free. He found that rocks and driftwood could be used for all sorts of projects such as borders, to cover barren ground where exposed tree roots prevented grass from growing, and as bases for flower pots and such.
WHERE TO FIND ROCKS
Finding rocks can usually be pretty simple if you live in a rural area or venture to one on the weekend. Many farmers have rock piles where they have “picked’ the rocks from their fields. They are usually more than happy for someone to cart them away. Sometimes by driving back roads you can spot rocks in fence rows. Just be sure to ask permission before you take any.
CHOOSING THE ROCKS
Be picky when choosing your rocks. Since they come in all shapes and sizes, plan where you want to put them. If the intention is to form a border that will hold smaller rocks or bark in place, be sure to choose ones that are large enough to do the job.
Sometimes you will want to create a certain effect. You may want to select all smooth rocks or long, flat ones that fit nicely side by side.
Color is also an important consideration. Different parts of the country have different rock formations. Granite can be found most everywhere and usually contain quartz crystals. These crystals are the reason for the “sparkle” when the sun strikes them at a certain angle. Some rocks are predominately pink or red while others have a blue or green hue. Most all the colors of the rainbow can be found. We have a large rock with all the colors of the rainbow striped through it. Hence, we call it our rainbow rock.
Pudding stones are in high demand. They are rocks with smaller rocks imbedded in them. If you find one of these, consider it a treasure. Some are even sold on estate sales and have been known to bring upwards of $300.
GETTING THE ROCKS HOME
If you are using smaller rocks that you can lift, getting them home is no problem. They can be loaded on a small trailer, in the back of a pickup, or even in a car trunk. If you are getting slightly larger ones that can’t be lifted, we have found that rolling them onto a child’s plastic sled works well. The sled can then be pulled up on a trailer and the rock rolled off.
However, sometimes you will want a larger rock, more like a boulder, to be the center of your landscaping project. These can weight well over 1000 pounds. The only way to move these are to use a tractor with a front- end loader or a bobcat. Keep in mind, they not only have to be loaded, but also un-loaded in the same manner. These are cases where the rock may be free, but you’ll have to pay to get it to its new home.
LAYING THE GROUND WORK
No matter the size, no matter the color, there is some simple ground work to prep the spot where the rocks will be placed. Skipping this step will only make more work for yourself in the long run. It is always best to start with bare, level ground. Pull any existing weeds or rototill the spot, then rake it until it is somewhat level.
After the ground has been prepped, you can lay landscaping cloth to prevent further weed growth. We have tried this method and found it works for a couple years and after that the weeds still find their way through. So, we choose to spray the area with an herbicide like Roundup. This will need to be done once or twice a growing season and can be applied over the rocks once they are in place.
Keep in mind that each rock is unique, no two are alike. So, whatever project you use them for, yours will look like none other anywhere. With a little work, rocks can be an affordable, eye-catching alternative to traditional landscape bricks and timbers. As for the driftwood, that’s a subject for another day.
Puddingstone Rock in Landscape
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