Replaced Some Lawn With a Rock Garden

9 Materials
$135
4 Days
Easy

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

Instructions


  • 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*
Azaleas planted

For Mother's Day this year, my oldest son gave me 3 Azalea plants. Since this variety grows to a size of 3-4' wide and 4-5' tall, I thought this was the perfect spot to plant two of them!

Growing well

So far, these little plants are growing very well!

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Jeanne
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Frequently asked questions

Have a question about this project?

3 of 9 questions
  • Rebecca S Rebecca S on Jul 08, 2020

    Did you make sure that the grade was down-sloped from your foundation? IF rain doesn't drain away from the building/home it will destroy the foundation, especially in the winter when water freezes and cracks open a basement wall.

  • Peggy Peggy on Apr 29, 2021

    How did you apply the sealer and what kind?

  • Edgar Neri Edgar Neri on Jun 04, 2021

    How can I get ride off crab grass and have nice grass I live in Houston tx

Comments

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4 of 66 comments
  • Larry Lewis Larry Lewis on Jun 10, 2021

    Looks good. Your rocks are pretty cheap out there. Because of repeated droughts here I've been looking at doing my whole front yard.

    • Jeanne Jeanne on Jun 10, 2021

      Thanks! I've been hearing that about our rocks and flagstone. I didn't realize how lucky I am to have that resource available!

  • Bel14888885 Bel14888885 on Sep 30, 2021

    This is lovely. Thanks for sharing that you did this on your hands and knees. I have some sod-removing work to do in my back yard and have put it off for multiple reasons; one being I didn't want to rent a machine I'd have difficulty operating and two I kill myself using a sod-spade. And in the past I've dug up flower beds on my hand and knees, so I wondered if I could do the same with the sod. Knowing that someone like-minded did it is reassuring. Also, thanks for showing your narrow side yard completed photo. Since I was thinking I wanted a walkway... if I make it with the rock garden on both sides like you, then the grass is the walkway (duh!) Any way that I can reduce the moving, I am for it! But your grass walkway is much more appealing to me visually then just a sidewalk or brick walkway.

    • Jeanne Jeanne on Sep 30, 2021

      I'm happy to hear that the method I used to remove the sod was helpful to you! Using a sod remover looked like a 2 person job and I didn't want to have to muscle one around. I also thought it might hit rocks and kick back on me. Removing sod manually is probably more work but at least I know that I'm the one in control. Good luck with your project, I'm sure it'll come out beautiful!

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