How to: Remove a rock bed (the slightly less difficult way)9:06 AM
If you've ever undertaken a landscaping project you probably already know that it is back breaking work. (Oh man I am learning that really quickly.) And today I'm going to share our process of removing 30 years worth or rock and mulch in order to prepare the ground to grow things other than weeds. Sounds fun right?
During the tour I mentioned the surprise rocks we had layered under the mulch that covered every bit of ground we owned. The bad news with that is rock is a lot heavier and harder to remove. The good news, well I guess there isn't any. Goody. So at first when we were going to put this off til next year we thought we would dump a couple of snow shovels worth in the trash every week and hopefully get rid of it all in a year. Now that we've moved this project up the list we needed to come up with a new plan.
So far we know:
•we have terrible clay soil underneath all this stuff.
•most of the mulch has decomposed into stuff that looks like dirt.
•we have a shit load of rocks hiding under the mulch just laughing at us.
•the previous owners had the entire concrete patio covered in AstroTurf at one point. It's true!
So with the terrible soil and the fact that we would be losing about 6 verticle inches of stuff, we needed to save the dirt from the mulch and rocks. Guess how I did it? I made a sifting station. It works really well, but takes some time for sure. We could have just loaded up a truck and take everything to the dump or something but we don't want to do that. And no, it's not because we're "being green". We are being cheap. I have no clue how much it costs to take things to the dump, but even the bagster thing from home depot was more than I want to spend just to throw things away.
First you need to make a screen. It doesn't need to be fancy. Just take some 2x4's and make a U shaped thing. I used my Kreg-Jig to put it together. Sadly enough it was the first thing I used it on. As for dimensions or size, I made mine so that the boards would sit on top of one of those big plastic storage containers that I had in the garage. So just make yours so it fits whatever you have. Once you have the U shape made attach some hardware cloth to it. I used 1/2" cloth and roofing nails. If you have really strong staples you could use that too, but roofing nails have a large flat head and will hold the hardware cloth on nicely. Just make sure to evenly secure the hardware cloth all the way around the boards.
Now plop your shiny new sifter onto the storage bin to catch the stuff you may or may not want to save. I found it was faster to use a rake and snow shovel instead of just a regular shovel. Use the rake to load up the snow shovel, dump that on top of the sifter, and give it a few rigerous shakes. All the dirt and smaller mulch pieces will fall through, leaving you with cleanish rocks to collect somewhere else. We started putting them in buckets but soon realized that was just ridiculous, so we just started piling them up on the patio.
Once you get close to the plastic lining (hopefully there is one) you'll want to turn your rake over to the smooth side to scoop the rocks into your shovel. That way you know you got all the rocks and didn't just mix a bunch into the dirt you've been working for hours just to get to. I also like to create a barrier of sorts so you're not knocking mulch and rocks into your newly de-rocked section of dirt. It doesn't need to be pretty, we just used some cinder blocks that we found buried under the ground. They made shoveling really fun.
After all that cut the lining along your little retaining wall and start turning over the dirt. You don't have to go crazy, but just enough to loosen things up a bit.
Now back to the dirt in the storage bin. Get that and start mixing it into the terrible clay soil. It really helps to lighten it up. Once you have some spread over the clay just turn the soil again like before. Hopefully you'll notice that it is a lot easier this time around. Go ahead and mix everything that collected into the fresh dirt, making sure to evenly encorporate everything. You can also mix in some composte at this point to help boost the soils nutrient values and such.
Once that's done use your rake to smooth it all out, then step back and look at your fresh patch of dirt with pride and joy. (just avoid looking a the rest of your yard and all that work you still have to do.)
Hopefully some friendly lady bugs will notice your urban revitalization project and tell their friends that your yard is a new up and coming neighborhood and with interest rates being at historic lows that they should consider moving to your yard. That what I'm hoping this little lady has planned.
Anyway, I hope this helps those of you who are removing rock. And hopefully there are some crazy people out there like me that come up with elaborate scenarios for what goes through the minds of bugs. Anyone? No? Ok, I guess that's just me. But seriously is there anything worse than shoveling rocks? Maybe that's why in old movies they always have chain gangs busting up rocks. Oh man, there I go again with the off topic thinking...