Landscape Design forum→Yard Consumed by River Rocks

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Aug 15, 2019 5:43 PM CST
Help! I moved into my house last year and was so focused on interior renovations that I neglected the back yard. I don't know what the previous owners were thinking, but the back yard is consumed with river rocks and grassy bushes. My goal is to add more grass into the yard. My original plan was to cover the river rocks with dirt and plant grass. My only concern is that the river rocks form a river when it rains - if I planted grass overtop, would the water just sit, or would it seep through to the rocks and flow down the hill? I've shown where i would want the grass. On the left, the grass would end and the rock river would continue.

Thumb of 2019-08-15/mawada/d3d1c7

Thumb of 2019-08-15/mawada/8988e4

Name: Dr. Demento Jr.
Minnesota (Zone 3b)
Aug 15, 2019 6:00 PM CST
I am assuming they put the rocks in because may have washed out before.
If so, the dirt will wash out again.
Does your property keep going on to the left?
If you do put dirt over the rocks you had best remove the largest ones first.

Aug 15, 2019 6:07 PM CST
My property does keep going to the left. The river rocks keep going down that way, too. When I planted those evergreens, I ended up just putting the dirt right on the rocks. After a major storm, the dirt is actually still there. The rocks just seem to breed weeds! Maybe I will test it with a bag of dirt and see if it gets washed away.
Portland, Oregon (Zone 7b)
Aug 17, 2019 6:47 AM CST
You answered your own question: what were they thinking? They were thinking they wanted to drain water off their property. This was once a very popular way of dealing with water run off, ie, get it off my property and make it someone else's problem. Now days, many areas have laws requiring property owners to "deal" with every drop of water on the property with the goal of zero run off.

So, you are going into this project fully aware your yard has a drainage problem. Drainage take precedence over everything thing else. You don't say where you are located, so the link below is more to give you general information, not specifics. You might want to also google "swales."

While the lawn may, or not be happy growing there, mowing soggy soils is difficult. soggy soils are also pro-moss. (So am I, by the way. ) It might not be the best place for a lawn and you might want to consider other options. What is your purpose for wanting more lawn?

Aug 18, 2019 8:44 AM CST
Thanks! I will look into swales. The purpose for more lawn is my dog, and the fact that the rocks seem to breed weeds and it drives me crazy!
Portland, Oregon (Zone 7b)
Aug 21, 2019 4:33 PM CST
mawada said:Thanks! I will look into swales. The purpose for more lawn is my dog, and the fact that the rocks seem to breed weeds and it drives me crazy!

Okay. Being a dog person who rents and thus has no dog... You might leave an area open for your dog to dig in if he/she is a digger. If you hide bones/treats there, they'll get the idea it's a good place to dig.
Name: Rick Webb
southeast Pennsylvania (Zone 6b)
Jan 23, 2020 10:49 AM CST
I normally love river rocks and I have one pathway of them for walking. However, that looks horrible. They should have done what I do and always put landscape fabric of good quality on the ground under the rock so it does not sink into the soil and allow so many weeds through. Just laying rock on the ground does not control water runoff. I would not put vast areas of land under such rock. I would rake the rock into a big pile in one spot, put some boulders among it, and leave it. Then replant the area in lawn and/or plant groundcover and/or big easy perennials and /or some good shrubs. Dwarf Alberta Spruce is such an ugly plant that often gets brown areas from mites and dryness and its harsh pointed form emphasizes the vertical aspect.

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