The Q&A Archives: landscaping- removing rocks and roots

Question: Hello,
I have a small backyard that I am planning on landscaping. I plan on having about half of the yard as a lawn and the other half in garden beds.

Currently I do have a lawn but it is about 75% weeds. I am considering starting a new lawn from scratch.

I also have moderate clay soil which is not very deep - about 4-5 inches deep. There are also tons of rocks and stones of varying size to be found in the soil which makes it hard to dig any garden beds.

What do you suggest that I do to get rid of the rocks and roots (old pine tree that was removed last summer)? Will tilling soil help with that or some other equipment?
Also is it necessary to remove rock from the entire yard or only in the places I want to build the garden beds?

Thanks in advance!

Answer: The best time to seed a new lawn is in the late summer to early fall, so you may want to take that into account. (Early spring is the next best time.) Your success will depend on the soiln preparatio. I would suggest you first run some basic soil tests and check pH and fertility. The test results will tell you how much to fertilize and if you need to add lime for your lawn grass to thrive. Shallow soil tends to dry out quickly and is not the best environment for plant roots, so you would want to add generous amounts of organic matter to the soil before planting. You will also need to remove the existing weeds. In a lawn area, this can be done by using an herbicide containing glyphosate; be sure to read and follow all of the directions. If you need to till to loosen the soil, you will need to remove larger stones and large roots or they will jam your tiller. You may need to grub out the main roots (or use an ax) and rake out stones by hand. Your county extension should be able to help you with the soil tests and interpreting the results. They should also have detailed information on the best varieties of grass to plant based on your local soil conditions and on the best ongoing maintenance procedures for a lawn in your area. You might also review with them if there might be alternatives to growing grass such as groundcovers. The reason I suggest considering this is that with shallow soil your lawn may need frequent watering during the summer and never be quite as nice as one might like due to the constraints of shallow soil.

The flower beds can be prepared in a similar way, however in my experience 4 inches of soil is really not enough to grow healthy flowers. So I would suggest you consider using raised beds for your flowers. You would remove existing weeds and loosen the soil, then build your bed upward. This should enable you to create excellent growing conditions.

Enjoy your new yard and garden!

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