Tips for Building a Rock Garden

An economical and low-maintenance way to enhance your home landscape is by building a rock garden.

Select and Prepare a Location

Plan your garden. See examples of rock gardens. Know what you want before you start.

Carefully look over the proposed site for your garden. Clear the area of unwanted plants, such as spindly grass varieties and diseased trees and plants. Be sure to dig out the roots as well as the tops, or unwanted plants may later invade your rock garden.

Test and Prepare the Soil

When building a rock garden, you may or may not include plants to complement the colors and arrangement of the rocks. If you plan to plant, test the soil to determine its level of acidity (pH). You may want to mix in some soil enhancements.

Place Your Rocks

Choose a variety of rocks. For aesthetic purposes, do not evenly space your rocks or use rocks of the same size and shape.

If you’re planning many plants, then space your rocks further apart to give more room for the vegetation. If you plan to use plants sparingly, arrange the rocks closer together, but make sure that you leave some room for plants to grow. Make the design look as natural as possible.

If you are placing the rocks on sloped ground, start at the low parts of slopes and work up. Place rocks so that the slope of the top of the rocks is in the same direction as the garden; this lets water from rain and sprinklers runs downward. Also, do not let outcroppings overshadow rocks and plants below. The goal is to create a feeling of stability. Set each rock so that its widest side serves a base. You can also set a larger rock on top of smaller rocks and then fill in the cracks with soil.

If you are building a rock garden on flat ground, work from the inside toward the outer edges of the garden. On a flat site, you may need to build up small mounds of dirt in different places to give the rock garden an interesting appearance.

If you are building a rock garden that is circular or some other shape that is surrounded by other landscape features, mark out the rocks on a map so that you can ensure their proper placement in the garden.

Plant at the Right Time

After you have placed your rocks and planned where you want to put plants, you may want to wait a full growing season before planting in yourrock garden. Waiting to plant will ensure that the soil has settled and give you a chance to make sure that you have gotten rid of weeds.

Early spring or early autumn is the best time to plant. Choose plants that are suited for rugged terrain and adapted to your climate. Then, plant them in the spaces you have designated.

More on building a rock garden.