How to Create a Rock Garden

Few can deny the beauty and function of a rock garden. What’s this about function, you might be asking? Well, rock gardens are the perfect answer to what ails you the most when it comes to your lawn and landscape. Practically every home has that one area that’s really difficult to maintain. It might be a corner, a slope, or another challenging reality that you absolutely dread having to take care of from time to time. When you put in a rock garden, you won’t have the same headache to deal with, and, you’ll get the added benefit of having a great feature.

What’s more, a rock garden is a kind of one-and-it’s-done, or, set-it-and-forget-it hardscape feature. In other words, once you put in a rock garden, you really don’t have to do much to maintain it. Rocks don’t grow, but, they do help to encourage growth. So, you’ll have to weed around it now and again, unless you put down landscape fabric.

In addition to being easy to create and maintain, there’s the benefit of having a feature that will last for many, many years. This is one of the secrets of professionals, they know that hardscaping brings a lot to an outdoor living and entertainment space, not only providing aesthetics, but also function, and longevity.

What is a Rock Garden Anyway?

A rock garden is just that, its namesake explains it all, at least, to an extent. Unlike some other landscape features, rock gardens can have a very specific purpose, which is mentioned above. These hardscapes are a great way to deal with problematic areas of a lawn and are popular in sub-tropical and tropical climates. A rock garden is typically comprised of assorted sized stones or rocks, and are aesthetically arranged. This arrangement includes small gaps to allow small plants to grow through. These plants are generally less water dependent and thrive in well-drained soil.

“A rock garden is a group of plants that look good planted among rocks,’ says Jody Payne, director of the Rock and Native Plant Gardens at the New York Botanical Garden. ‘They can include small plants, unusual plants, shady areas filled with ephemeral woodland plants and sunny areas dotted with dwarf conifers and small flowering plants and grasses.’” —HGTV

Small rock gardens are created to mimic natural bedrock outcrops for a stunning visual effect. These were very popular landscape features during Victorian times, and, are coming back into style, in-part, because of the ease of creation, and low maintenance. These can be found on commercial properties and are a favorite go-to since they can be arranged for a particular look.

How to Create a Rock Garden

If you want to enhance the look of your landscape, there’s little else that’s as simple as creating a rock garden. What’s more, you don’t have to be a professional to get great results. All you need is some common tools, a little time, and of course, rocks. Here’s how you can create a rock garden:

  1. Gather the tools and materials. You’ll need a pair of leather gloves, a spade shovel, wheelbarrow, sand, landscaping marking paint, leaf mold, small gravel, limestone or sandstone, and, rocks of varying sizes. It’s also a good idea to wear heavy work boots to protect your feet while you’re excavating.
  2. Choose and mark your rock garden location. Now that you have your tools and materials ready to go, it’s time to choose where you’ll put-in your rock garden. When you settle on a spot, mark the boundaries with landscaping marking paint.
  3. Excavate the marked site. Using a spade shovel, begin to excavate into the ground, digging down at least one feet in depth, if you’re digging into a slope, putting the soil and sod aside. Should you not have a slope to dig into, you’ll have to create a raised bed, which will require digging down three feet, and building walls of limestone or sandstone. An alternative is to build a berm, which naturally slopes on all sides and promotes drainage.
  4. Put down a drainage layer. This will be where water, such as rainwater and irrigation water seep past. Using large rocks, fill up the excavated area to about one-third to one-half deep. You want it to be even, but certainly have plenty of small gaps for proper drainage.
  5. Put down the sand layer. Now, you’ll need something to support the topsoil, and that’s what a sand layer will do nicely. It should also be even, covering the drainage layer, a few inches in depth, comprised of coarse sand.
  6. Put down the soil layer. Mix together one part topsoil, one part leaf mold, and one part small gravel to create a soil layer. This will fill the excavated hole to its brim and then, it’s time to rock out with the finishes.

You can arrange rocks to your liking and then, let it settle for at least a few days. Thereafter, you can plant flowers in the soil layer and then all you have to do is enjoy your new creation!

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