You may be excited to start your garden, but you are\nprobably not so excited about removing rocks from your soil. However, this tedious task is necessary,\nsince rocks can damage your garden tools and prevent a plant\u2019s roots from\ngrowing to their full potential.\n\n\n\nSo, how do you get rid of rocks in soil? Sifting\nrocks out of the soil with a sieve or filter is the best way to remove small\nrocks from the soil. You can also remove\nsmall rocks from soil with a rake or shovel. \nYou should roll medium sized rocks away by hand, and use power equipment\nfor large rocks or boulders.\n\n\n\nLet\u2019s go into more detail on some of the ways to remove\nrocks from your soil, along with alternatives to bypass some of the hard work\nentirely.\n\n\n\nUsing a Rock Sieve (Soil Sifter) To Remove Rocks From Soil\n\n\n\nThe advantage of using a rock sieve is that it will give you\nnice, smooth soil. The largest rocks you\nwill find after sifting will be smaller than the holes in the filter.\n\n\n\nAfter sifting your soil, it will be free of all but the smallest rocks.\n\n\n\nThe disadvantage of using a rock sieve is that it may get\nclogged if your soil has lots of small or medium sized rocks. So, you may want to use a rake to get rid of\nsome of the bigger rocks first (more on this later).\n\n\n\nWhat Is A Rock Sieve?\n\n\n\nA rock sieve is a\ndevice that separates rocks from soil. \nThe result is smooth, stone-free soil that is ideal for garden plants.\n\n\n\nA rock sieve has two basic parts: a frame and a filter. The frame is rectangular and is often made of\nwood, though it can be made of metal or plastic.\n\n\n\nAll you need is four wooden boards and some fasteners to make a frame for your rock sifter.\n\n\n\nThe filter is usually made of metal, such as chicken wire or\na chain-link fence with small holes. The\nfilter is attached to the frame with nails or staples.\n\n\n\nChicken wire is not just for keeping chickens in the yard - you can use it as a filter for a rock sieve!\n\n\n\nHow Does A Rock Sieve Work?\n\n\n\nThere are a few different ways to use a rock sieve. One way is to lay the sieve flat over a\nwheelbarrow to catch sifted soil. Next,\nuse a shovel to pour soil over the filter.\n\n\n\nThen, use a rake or shovel to pull the soil back and forth\nover the filter until the soil all falls through and only rocks remain\nabove. Finally, replace the sifted soil\nin your garden, and do what you want with the rocks (more on this later).\n\n\n\nYou will need a shovel or rake to move the soil across the rock sieve.\n\n\n\nAn alternative method is to lay the sieve at an angle, with\nthe bottom part over a wheelbarrow. \nThen, shovel soil onto the highest part of the sieve, and let gravity do\nthe work of pulling the soil over the filter.\n\n\n\nIf you buy or build a sieve with handles, you may be able to\nshake the soil through the filter, instead of using a rake or shovel to pull it\nback and forth. Just remember that a\nsieve can get heavy with lots of rocks and soil.\n\n\n\nHow To Build A Rock Sieve\n\n\n\nAs mentioned above, there are only two main parts to a rock\nsieve: a frame and a filter. For the\nframe, you can use four long pieces of wood and nail or screw them together to\nmake a rectangle.\n\n\n\nThen, cut a rectangular piece of chicken wire to the\nappropriate dimensions, and pull it over the wooden frame. Attach the filter to the frame around the\nborder with nails or staples. That\u2019s it!\n\n\n\nIf you want handles for the sieve, make two of the pieces of\nwood longer than the length of the chicken wire. Choose chicken wire with smaller holes for\nsmoother sifted soil.\n\n\n\nHow Big Should A Rock Sieve Be?\n\n\n\nIt depends on how much soil you want to sift, and how strong\nyou are. Remember that doubling the\nlength and width of a sieve will quadruple the amount of soil and rock it\nholds, thus quadrupling the weight.\n\n\n\nRemember that you will need to move the sieve for storage,\nso you don\u2019t want it to be too big and awkward. \nAlso, keeping the sieve small gives you the option of shaking it instead\nof using a shovel or rake to move the soil over the filter.\n\n\n\nI would suggest starting off with a small sieve, perhaps a\nsquare 4 foot by 4 foot frame, and see how long it takes to sift your\nsoil. You can always build a larger one\nfor bigger jobs.\n\n\n\nUsing a Garden Rake To Remove Rocks From Soil\n\n\n\nAs mentioned above, a rock sieve may be overwhelmed and\nclogged by too many rocks in your soil. \nTo prevent this from happening, use a rake to remove some of the larger\nrocks before you use your sieve.\n\n\n\nFirst, buy or borrow a metal rake with steel tines (not a plastic\nor flexible metal leaf rake). Then, pull\nthe rake through your soil, starting off shallow to pull up rocks near the\nsurface.\n\n\n\nIf you are doing it right, the rake should pull rocks while\nleaving soil behind. Have several buckets\nnearby to hold the rocks you are raking into a pile.\n\n\n\nUsing a Power Box Rake (Harley Rake) To Remove Rocks From Soil\n\n\n\nA power box rake, or Harley rake, is a power tool that helps\nyou to remove rocks from the soil. \nInstead of raking by hand, you can use this machine to do the raking for\nyou.\n\n\n\nThis machine may be a bit extreme for the home gardener, but\nif you garden at scale and have a friend who has one, it might be worth saving\nyourself from the backbreaking labor of raking a large area by hand.\n\n\n\nYou may also be able to rent a Harley rake from a power\nequipment rental store near you. If you\nwant to buy one, remember that they cost several thousand dollars.\n\n\n\nUsing a Tractor to Remove Rocks From Soil\n\n\n\nIf you have a tractor, or can borrow or rent one, then you\ncan use it to remove rocks from your soil. \nMost tractors have a rock removal attachment, so ask about this if you\nare going to rent one.\n\n\n\nAgain, a machine like this is overkill for a small garden,\nbut it can save you a lot of time and effort on a large plot of land.\n\n\n\nRemoving Rocks From Soil By Hand\n\n\n\nMoving larger rocks with a rake or shovel is awkward or impossible,\nand putting them through a rock sieve is a waste of time and effort. Instead, you should simply use a shovel to\nlift them out of a hole, and then roll them away from the area that you want to\nclear.\n\n\n\nHow Deep Should You Clear The Soil?\n\n\n\nI would recommend clearing the soil to a depth of 1\nfoot. Remember that some root\nvegetables, such as carrots, will grow deformed if they encounter resistance\nfrom rocks in the soil.\n\n\n\nCarrots can grow to a foot in length, so you should remove rocks to that depth if possible.\n\n\n\nAlso remember that any plant\u2019s roots will be impeded by\nrocks in the soil. Clearing out rocks\nfrom the soil to a depth of 1 foot will improve the soil\u2019s ability to retain\nmoisture, making it easier to keep your plants watered.\n\n\n\nThere is one more thing to keep in mind: clearing rocks out\nof your soil is a process, not an event. \nEven if you clear the rocks out the top foot of soil this year, you may\nneed to do it again in later years.\n\n\n\nThe reason is that rocks naturally move up through the soil\ntowards the surface. This can happen\nwhen underground water freezes and expands, pushing the rocks upward.\n\n\n\nWhat Should You Do With The Rocks?\n\n\n\nNow that you have a full wheelbarrow (or more!) of rocks from your soil, you need to decide what to do with them. One option is to use the larger ones to build a rock wall on your property.\n\n\n\nYou could even build one near your garden, as a type of windbreak. For more information on why this might be necessary, check out my article on protecting your plants from wind and storms.\n\n\n\nUse the rocks from the soil for a stone wall or wind break!\n\n\n\nYou can also use flatter stones to make a garden path or a\npath around a pond or water feature in your yard. You can use some of the medium sized stones\nto make a barrier for a fire pit.\n\n\n\nThe smallest stones can be used as filler when you pour\nconcrete or cement, to save on project costs. \nIf all else fails, you can offer the rocks to friends, family, or\nneighbors.\n\n\n\nAlternatives to Removing Rocks From Soil\n\n\n\nThere are a couple of alternatives to removing rocks from\nyour soil. These will save you some effort\non removing rocks, but they will still require some work or money (or both).\n\n\n\nBuy Screened Loam\n\n\n\nScreened loam is simply soil where the rocks have already\nbeen removed for you. This saves you the\nwork of removing the rocks with a sieve or rake.\n\n\n\nHowever, you will need to pay for the screened loam itself,\nand possibly an extra charge for delivery if you don\u2019t have a truck. This is a good option if the area where you\nwant to put your garden is impossibly rocky, the soil quality is poor, or the\narea is subject to erosion.\n\n\n\nFor more information, check out my article on how to prevent\nsoil erosion.\n\n\n\nRaised Beds, Cold Frames, and Containers\n\n\n\nInstead of fighting to stay ahead of rocks in your soil, you\ncan use raised beds, cold frames, and containers to avoid the battle\naltogether.\n\n\n\nUsing raised beds prevents you from having to sift rocks out of soil.\n\n\n\nOf course, you will still need to build or buy raised beds,\ncold frames, and containers. However,\nyou have more flexibility in how deep you make them and how much soil you put\nin them.\n\n\n\nConclusion\n\n\n\nHopefully this article gave you a good idea of what methods\nare available to remove rocks from soil, along with some alternatives.\n\n\n\nI hope you found this article helpful. If you have any questions or advice of your\nown about removing rocks from soil, please leave a comment below.