Replaced Some Lawn With a Rock Garden

9 Materials
4 Days

The grass in the front lawn by the garage along the neighbors fence hasn't been growing well for a long time. In fact, there was a large brown spot. Not to mention that mowing along the vinyl fence is tricky and I end up having to pull the grass up by hand after mowing. So, I decided to create a rock garden.

Sod rolls

The first step in this process is to remove the sod. I started along the wood fence line and that sod came up in nice LONG strips; so long that I decided to roll the pieces.  How cute do they look?! Since I didn't want to carry them far once it was time to load them into the truck, I piled them along the vinyl fence laying them on top of the brown grass.

Removing sod

Although there are sod cutters for this activity, for some reason, I choose to do it by hand. And by hand, I mean on my hands and knees using a kneeling pad, garden shovel and a little garden rake. It is a workout for sure but oddly satisfying.

Sod removed, edging in place

When all the sod was pulled up along the house, I set the edging bricks in place.  I just love these bricks!  They are called Bullet edgers and were on sell for $1.19 each.  I ended up buying 64 for this project. 

Next, I removed the sod along the vinyl fence and sat the edgers in place as I worked.  The spot beneath the rolls of sod would have to wait until I loaded them in the truck.

Sod quilt

Before heading to Rockhound to get the landscape rock, I needed to load up the truck and just like the last two times I removed sod from our yard and take this new batch to a friend's property.  It seemed like a good idea to roll the sod, but the rolls were a bit heavier than the 1'-2' squares that were in the last two batches. When I got to Linda's, she and I unloaded the truck and arranged the sod pieces into a nice grass quilt.

Newpaper to help prevent weed growth

Before filling the space with rock, to help prevent weeds & grass from growing up through the rock, I laid down newspaper over the soil.  I had used newspaper in another section of the front yard this summer until I ran out and then used landscape cloth for the remainder of that section.  Both methods have worked well, there are a few volunteer pansies that have grown through them but fewer have come up where I have the newspaper.  When using newspaper, be sure to wet it well before covering it with soil or rock.  I find this technique also helps keep it in place since it's usually windy when I'm working on these outdoor projects.

1/2 yard of landscape rock

We have a Tacoma so I can only get 1/2 yard of rock at a time. 1/2 yard of landscape rock is $16.50. I figured it would take 3 loads and, yes, it took 3.  Since I couldn't back the truck right up to the area where I was using the rock, to move it from the truck to the garden beds, I used the garden shovel to fill up my little wagon, pulled the wagon to the bed and used the shovel to unload the rock and place in the beds. Building a rock garden provides lots of free exercise!

Brown paper grocery bags

I ran out of newspaper 1/2 way through the 2nd section of the rock garden and decided to use some brown paper grocery bags since I already had them on hand. It'll be interesting to see how well they work compared to the newspaper and landscape cloth.

Landscape cloth to help prevent weed growth

Well, I also ran out of grocery bags before finishing the rock garden so I used landscape cloth. I still had some on hand so no new $ was spend on any of the weed growth prevention

Sealed rock

When all the rock was in place, I sealed it with Homax concrete sealer. I had a lot left over from the landscape projects in the front of the house so I figured I'd use it to add some shine to the rock.

Left side of the new rock garden

The rock garden by the house looks really nice. I do plan to build something, probably out of lattice, to cover the utility boxes. I've always thought they looked tacky but now I notice them even more.

Right side of the new rock garden

I'm so happy I don't have to mow next to the vinyl fence any longer. I had to be so careful not to bump up against it since it was easy to damage the area where the sections were attached to each other. I'll still need to do a little edging along the bricks to keep the grass from growing right up to them but I have an electric edger that works well for that process.

in addition to getting rid of that dry spot in the grass -- we had tried many times to revive it - having a rock garden is more economical since we won't be watering it

Finished rock gardens

Don't these rock gardens look nice? I may add some flower pots for color but since it's getting late in the season, that'll be a project for next Spring/Summer.

I had all the tools, weed prevention, sealer on hand so I only bought the edging bricks & landscape rock. The total cost was $135

When I bought the sealer, it was $50 for a gallon (it goes a long way).

The landscape cloth was $10 for the roll


  • Measure the size of the area where you are removing sod
  • Mark with a line or garden hose or use a yardstick
  • Using a garden shovel, cut through the soil along the line for the new area
  • Pull up the sod and set aside
  • You can use the shovel to loosen the sod or a small garden rake
  • Use edging bricks to line the new area
  • Lay down either newspaper, brown paper bags or landscape cloth
  • Cover with landscape rock to the depth you want - 2-3"
  • Apply two light coats of sealer   *Optional*

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Want more details about this and other DIY projects? Check out my blog post!


Have a question about this project?

3 of 5 questions
  • Cindy Rubin
    on Sep 11, 2019

    What does the sealer do? Is it just for shine? Does it help the rocks stay in place? Stop the weeds?

  • Deanna
    on Sep 11, 2019

    Does the sealer make the rockets stay in place? Like, can kids still pick them up or not? Love this idea, I just put a new vinyl fence in and hate mowing next to it

    • Jeanne
      on Sep 12, 2019

      No that I know of. I haven't had any problems with kids in our neighborhood on the rock garden that's closer to the street. This one sets back farther so it wasn't a concern when I put it in.

  • Debi53
    on Sep 13, 2019

    I love the look you have created. The view of the finished area with the tree in the center really looks like an outdoor room with white walls on three sides. Have you thought about shopping thrift stores for some large metal pieces to hang on the "walls" (your fence)? This would give your area interest year round and requires no maintenance. Pots with plants in the spring and summer would make it even more beautiful.

    • Jeanne
      on Sep 14, 2019

      Thanks! Actually, I had not thought about adding fence art to this area - what a great suggestion! I have fence art in the backyard. Now I have a good reason to go shopping!  I do plan on adding pots with plants in them in the Spring.

Join the conversation

4 of 38 comments
  • Prelude
    on Sep 28, 2019

    Great Job. Many years back, DH and I did something similar around the border of our home. Even though french drained we were having issues with water seeping thru our foundation. We needed to direct the water away from the house, but didn't want to build up the soil directly against the house. We bordered two sides of the house using a double stack of 4 inch landscape timber, which I stained. It was a job because we had to drill holes in the timber to accommodate 12 inch spikes. We back filled to the foundation with pea gravel. Ours isn't as wide, perhaps only 15 inches. I then brought in top soil and created two long planting beds sloping the soil away from the house. We haven't had to replace the timber yet (20 years).

    • Jeanne
      on Sep 29, 2019

      Thanks! Wow, your project sounds awesome! So happy for you that it's been such a success!

  • Cat
    on Nov 29, 2019

    wow inspired! I need to do something like this to get the soil away from the house, maybe a thinner rock section, and a few perennials

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