Removal of Lava Rock Mulch

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Posted by @Jeyra on
The home we purchased six years ago came with extensive landscaping, complete with lava rock mulch. We wanted to replace the lava rock mulch with something more biodegradable that would break down and add nutrients to the soil as it decomposed over time. However, the thought of digging out all the lava rocks that had become deeply embedded into the soil over the years seemed a formidable task.

This past summer, we decided we would begin the task working on one bed at a time. We enlisted the help of the children to make the task go faster. As I am the oldest, a freshman in high school, my mom and I undertook the brunt of the labor. It was slow, tedious work! We tried to brainstorm a more efficient way to dig out the embedded lava rocks without losing all of the soil in the process, and finally stumbled upon the idea of using a large piece of hardware cloth as a sieve to separate the lava rocks from the soil. Our idea worked so well, my mom decided to give me the task of photographically documenting the process in order to share the idea with other gardeners on ATP.

First, we cut a piece of hardware cloth measuring about 30 inches by 30 inches (openings about 1/4 - 1/2 inch). Then, as we dug out the embedded lava rocks (which pulled up a lot of soil with them), we piled both the soil and the lava rocks on top of the hardware cloth.

Thumb of 2014-10-11/Jeyra/bd8d27

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Then, working in small sections of the garden bed, and using the hardware cloth as a sieve, we shook it until all of the dirt sifted through and fell back into the garden bed or into a separate bucket, while the lava rocks remained on top of the hardware cloth.

Thumb of 2014-10-11/Jeyra/530836

We dumped the rocks into another container (5 gallon bucket, wheelbarrow, etc.) to be placed in a pile and disposed of at a later time.

Thumb of 2014-10-11/Jeyra/73d996

After getting all of the lava rocks out of one bed, we replaced the dirt caught in the bucket back into the garden bed (sometimes we also just sifted the dirt straight into the bed instead of having a bucket below the hardware cloth to catch it, depending upon the size of the section we were working on, and how deeply embedded the lava rocks were in that section).

Thumb of 2014-10-11/Jeyra/c33664

Thumb of 2014-10-11/Jeyra/ce59a1

After we had completed an entire bed, we then laid down a biodegradable mulch.

Thumb of 2014-10-11/Jeyra/8649b2

Thumb of 2014-10-11/Jeyra/0d74c4

This ended up being a much more efficient way to streamline an inherently arduous task. We hope this idea may be of use to anyone else out there who may have the goal of replacing any sort of rock mulch with a biodegradable mulch.

Comments and Discussion
Thread Title Last Reply Replies
lava rock by smilechina Jun 20, 2017 3:55 AM 0
Thank You!!! by Bringamess Jun 8, 2017 2:20 PM 0
Untitled by donnabking Mar 14, 2015 11:37 AM 0
Make a frame for the screen by MaryE Mar 11, 2015 12:48 PM 1
Fantastic idea! by evermorelawnless Mar 10, 2015 7:25 PM 6
Nice job! by dyzzypyxxy Mar 10, 2015 3:54 PM 5

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