Asked on Sep 01, 2018

How do I maintain river rock in landscape?

by Suzyqgreen

My backyard project includes a massive area of river rock that covers more than half of the backyard. Any landscape fabric that might have been there has surely deteriorated and it is now a losing battle to keep the weeds and grass from coming up through the rocks and in a few places the rocks are disappearing into the dirt below.

I love the look the rocks add to my yard and would keep them if there’s a reasonable solution. But the feeling of a Zen Garden just isn’t there with the constant struggle to keep that area looking nice. I’m losing the battle and open to any ideas, please! Should I take the rocks out and replace them with something else? And if so, what? Move them to a smaller area? Bring in more rocks so they’re thicker and hope weeds don’t make it through? Replace the ginormous area with landscape fabric only to do it again in a few years?

I think the rocks originally served the purpose of covering a shady area where grass was sparse or not at all so the area probably needs some sort of alternative to grass, I’m just hoping there are some ideas out there on how to handle my high maintenance area of river rock.

Milton looking concerned about his river rock problem.

  15 answers
  • Denise Denise on Sep 01, 2018

    You need to pull your weeds. Move rock a side and lay new cloth down . Then add 2 inch’s of rock at least. When the leaves start to accumulate and it’s needs a pick me up use your leaf blower to blow the rocks clean of the debris,

    it is initially a little work but with minimal upkeep it will last for years. And yes rock will need to be added occasionally along with the Preen each season which is pet friendly.

    Good luck!

  • Lynne Lynne on Sep 01, 2018

    Sprinkle Preen on the rockbed next spring before the weeds come up.

  • Von Von on Sep 01, 2018

    This has nothing to do with an answer but your Dog looks like my Maggie.

  • Tom Stuart Tom Stuart on Sep 01, 2018

    I have an area with a similar rock covering. After quite a few years the same thing happened. I used a hoe and removed all of the rock and some dirt it was imbedded in. I then put down new weed cloth.

    The rocks need need to be washed. I used several 5-gallon buckets with a cup of bleach and a squirt of dish soap in each. Put the rocks in the bottom third of the bucket. Stir it well then pour off the dirty water into another bucket with rocks. Keep washing and rinsing in a series of buckets until the rinse water is clean. Dump those rocks onto the weed cloth then continue with the other buckets. This sounds complicated but it goes pretty quickly when you get the bucket to bucket routine down.

    Martha Stewart has the same problem with the gravel in the driveway to her house at Turkey Hill. She has all of the driveway commercially removed, washed and replaced. I don’t see stirring and dumping buckets.

  • Susan K Mullins Susan K Mullins on Sep 01, 2018

    I have a large area of rock and pea gravel in my back yard. I used a thick black plastic under my rock. It has been down for about 15 years. It is just now beginning to need replacements in some spots. I use Round Up for weeds that come up, mostly where birds drop seeds. I have a couple of bird feeders at the edge of my rock garden. I also pull up some weeds. The weeds don’t have good roots, since the seeds started out on the rock bed and not in dirt. I think one thing that has helped is, I have stepping stones where we walk out to the yard. This keeps traffic off of my rocks as much.

    ‘If you enjoy you rock garden as much as I do, I would take it up and put down a heavy plastic, replace the rocks and add stepping stones for a walk way. Hope this helps :)

  • Car33466483 Car33466483 on Sep 02, 2018

    We live in the Az desert. We yearly blow the_debris of the area and power wash the large rocks. As for the pea gravel and small stuff like your pups on. DON'T USE ROUND UP ON ANYTHING IN YOUR YARD. Gives people and pets cancer. I use a mix or rock salt and bleach spray it let dry. But after about 3 yrs you'll need a new layer of rock. Which is when you could spray then top.

  • Tammy Miller Tammy Miller on Sep 02, 2018

    Do yourself a favor and get rid of the rock. Plant grass it's much easier.

  • Vicki  lou Vicki lou on Sep 02, 2018

    I have rock and pea gravel in my yard. I live in the desert in California. I like the rocks but some weeds sneak through so the rock salt and bleach sounds good to me. good luck.

  • Joy30150932 Joy30150932 on Sep 04, 2018

    All you need to do is kill off the weeds with vinegar and salt. Then add some fresh rock on the top. It will look like new. To remove it and put down another layer of fabric is a lot of work for a short term gain because in a few years you will have to do it all over again. .

  • Suzzann Suzzann on Sep 05, 2018

    You need more rocks first of all, then maintain as the others said.

  • Cpa14031566 Cpa14031566 on Sep 27, 2018

    I clean out the weeds each spring and sprinkle Preen on that area. It keeps the weeds out. Then I would add some rock on top. You won't need to put down new weed fabric, all you need to do is update your Preen when you see any weeds appear. The Preen is activated by water so when you first sprinkle it on you have to lightly sprinkle it with water. I put Preen on my mulched areas, also.

  • Ouina Ouina on Nov 26, 2018

    I use a weed torch. It heats up the top of the plants and they die back to ash. I only have to use it occasionally. My husband bought a small tank that is I can easily carry. It works beautifully and is about as sustainable as possible without contaminating the soil. I tried everything else and this worked the best for me. Google it - I love it. (I have granite gravel, river rock and natural limestone paths.)

  • Nancy Turner Nancy Turner on Nov 26, 2018

    If you are ambitious you could take up the rock and put down the plastic, not fabric. If you get the thick one, it wouldn't have to be replaced for years. and you wouldn't have sinking rock. it will collect dirt and debris over the years and start getting some weeds, but those are easy to pull. I also use the Preen weed preventer and it works really well on anything that germinated from seed except for tree seeds. It does not cover things like creeping charlie or grosses that come from a mother plant. If you take up the rock to plant some kind of ground cover, make sure you did up as much as possible, the underground buried rock may cause problems in the summer by heating up and killing the roots of what you plant. It would be easier to fill in the bare spots with more, but if the fabric is bad, it will start sinking again.

  • Johnavallance82 Johnavallance82 on Nov 08, 2021

    Hi, Just add more of the same rocks on top. What happens is the ground compacts, so you have to top it up to maintain the height.