Build a Rock Garden in a Day

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Brenda Darroch

A rock garden is a striking architectural feature, and if you think small scale, it’s easy to build a one in a day. This gardening project can be as simple as grouping a clump of large boulders together or stacking a small tiered rock wall – both of which will leave a lasting impression and offer visual enjoyment all year long..  Best of all, it’s fun to collect rocks from travels, hikes and special days at the beach or lake to add to your wall over time.

If larger rocks are your preference, it’s best to build a rock garden that incorporates existing boulders or large rocks rather than moving the rocks.  Add 6-8 inches of rich soil to the areas and openings surrounding the rocks. Choose plants to fill the crevices that are drought tolerant and/or have trailing roots.  Planting perennial seeds in the openings between the rocks will also add another layer of interest once the plants begin to grow and mature. If you have medium to large rocks that aren’t buried deep in the earth and are circular in shape, consider rolling these to the area of your choice for additional depth.

Instructions to Build a Rock Garden

  1. To build a small rock wall garden, begin by marking the area that you want to build the wall on with string or spray paint.
  2. Collect small to medium sized rocks 6-12 inches in diameter. 
  3. Place the rocks together  by size, shape and fit securing the layers by arranging appropriately sized rocks to fill spaces as needed.
  4. Once the wall is built up a few layers, add clean soil and plant perennial flowers and plants at the base. Succulents such as Sedum and Hens and Chicks may be tucked into the crevices and will quickly spread to give the wall an established look.

Looking for another weekend project? Consider this: a rock garden naturally complements the soothing look and sound of a backyard water garden.

  • James

    This is a very interesting idea. I live in the Ozarks and have accumulated a large pile of rocks that just seem to pop up from the yard like mushrooms. I was thinking about calling someone to come dig a hole to toss them all in and then spread the dirt… until I read your article. Now I have to check out these plants you refer to and see if they will survive here.

  • Shelley

    Thanks for the question Karen. While road salt does indeed damage almost all plants and makes them more susceptible to disease (sometimes killing them) it depends on the level of exposure to salt that the plant gets and just how close to the roadside they are planted. Some succulents can indeed make it with minimal road salt exposure, though it is best to plant away from areas that are in the path of road salt exposure if possible.

  • Will hens and chicks and sedum survive salt from the road being plowed from the road in the winter?

    Thank you, Karen


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