A rock garden can transform a dull chunk of land into a scenic, aesthetically pleasing sight to behold. For people enthusiastic about all things gardening, rock gardens provide a fantastic opportunity to display specific plants and create a remarkable fortress.
While the thought of making a rock garden might be daunting at first, you might be shocked to learn that setting one up doesn’t require much. All you need is a small chunk of land, rocks of different sizes, and of course, a unique set of plants and flowers that you want to flaunt in your backyard.
Factors to Consider
Although building rock gardens is not a complicated task, it does require you to keep some considerations in mind. Some of the main factors to consider include:
Type of Project
Before starting on your rock garden project, you will need to factor in the size of the project. Of course, the type of project will be determined mainly by the size and nature of your land. A small rock garden is an appropriate option if you have a small area you want to transform into your little rock garden.
Alternatively, you can choose to settle for a rock garden on steps. This option is highly popular for large households. Another option is a sloping rock garden if your land is uneven in some areas. We recommend basing your project type on the nature of your property or preferred garden area.
Size of Rocks
The size of rocks you use plays a massive role in determining the arrangement of flowers and plants in your preferred location. Large-sized stones give you more room for creativity as you can blend different sizes to provide a scenic, adventurous feel to your garden. However, you can also work with small rocks by assembling them to create a unique garden of small pebbles.
The Correct Type of Soil
For your rock garden to act as a habitat for plants and flowers, you will need to set it up in a strategic three-layered location. The base of the rock garden will need to have good drainage for the plants. Coarse and sharp-edged sand is preferred for the second layer to boost aeration. The top layer should comprise of soil that promotes root growth.
When to Build Your Rock Garden
Rock gardens can be set up at any time of the year. However, to allow for proper plant growth, it is advisable to start working on your rockery during winter. Setting up the rocks during winter will enable them to settle and gel in with the soil to allow for easy planting during spring.
Materials and Equipment Needed
To build the rock garden of your dreams, you will need the following equipment and materials:
- Rocks: It goes without saying that you will need stones to make your rock garden. You can choose to use small rocks and pebbles located on your property, or you can source externally if your project requires unique or different sized stones.
- Plants: Without a beautiful collection of plants, a rock garden is just a collection of different sized rocks. As such, you will need to source the best plants to suit the intended design or appearance of your garden.
- Trowel: A gardening trowel will come in handy when planting your selected breed of plants. Trowels help in digging holes, breaking up the soil underneath rocks and even mixing fertilizers.
- Shovel: Having a shovel by your side will help you out when moving small rocks, pebbles, or rocky soil. You can also use a perforated shovel to separate dirt from rocks.
- Wheelbarrow: considering you will be moving potentially heavy rock and hundreds of pebbles, a wheelbarrow will add convenience while also protecting your back.
- Tape measure: Helps in taking measurements to determine the appropriate rock sizes that can fit the garden space.
- Newspaper: In gardening, newspapers act as weed barriers and decomposers, especially when preparing for planting during spring.
Rock Garden Plant Checklist
For you to get the most out of your rock garden, you will need to select your preferred plants carefully. Rocky surfaces are not ideal for all plants.
Due to this, you will need to choose plants that satisfy the following checklist.
- Excellent drainage: Your rock garden will thrive with plants that grow best in soils with good drainage. Avoid mixing plants that like good drainage with those that prefer growing in soils that retain water.
- Plants that need little water: Plants that require little water to survive such daffodils, brodiaea, and wild tulips do best in rock gardens.
- Plants that prefer sunny areas: Since a rock garden is usually raised due to the presence of rocks, plants will be exposed to sunlight, unlike others at ground level. Selecting plants that thrive in sunny conditions will help you develop a beautiful garden with long-lasting plants.
- Variation in height and texture: playing with plants of different sizes will help give your garden that much-required beautiful appearance.
- Plants that fit the desired colour scheme: A rock garden is meant to showcase different plants and flowers thriving within the same area. As such, you should select plants that have similar characteristics and most importantly, those that complemented your intended colour scheme.
How to Build Your Rock Garden
1. Map Out Your Design
When it comes to setting up rock gardens, the importance of having a plan in mind can’t be overstated. It is advisable to mark the outline with paint to help you get a rough picture of how the garden will look.
Mapping out design enables you to know where you plan to have the big rocks and where smaller rocks, as well as the soil layers, will go. Having an idea of your intended design will help you avoid doing double work, especially when it comes to the positioning of rocks.
2. Clear Your Area of Focus
You will need to clear some space to allow you to set up your rock garden. Since rock gardens are usually elevated, finding an appropriate area to lay your first course will be vital to the beauty of your garden. Grass is not your best friend when it comes to rock gardens. As such, you will need to clear out all grass before proceeding to create the garden foundation.
Consider putting newspapers on the grass and adding a bit of dirt to hold the newspapers in place. The newspapers will help clear up the grass while also denying weeds the opportunity for growth. You should select and clear a piece of land that suits your intended design.
3. Layout Your Rocks
Selecting the rocks you want to use is a vital step in preparing your rock garden. As mentioned earlier, you can choose to either use the stones available on your property or you can get some externally. Large boulders and rocks can be obtained from quarries or stone suppliers while unique pebbles can be obtained from landscaping or gardening stores.
After selecting your preferred rocks, proceed to lay down the first layer of soil and rocks. The layer will create an elevated and stable bed for your garden. Remember, a larger rock garden will require a larger base for an attractive look. It is advisable to use the huge and less appealing rocks to make the bottom layer.
Consider filling the first course's inside area with sandy soil for good drainage. If you have clay-like soil; however, you can add sand and compost to enhance soil drainage.
4. Lay the Second Course
The second layer is equally important as the first course. Ideally, you should use smaller rocks than used in the first course and arrange them in a similar design to the first. However, you should leave enough space between the two layers and within the second course. The in-between space will come in handy when planting.
Be sure to use appealing rocks for the second, and do not hesitate to experiment by mixing different sizes.
5. Allow Your Garden to Settle
After taking your time to arrange the rocks and create the two layers, it is advisable to allow your garden enough time to settle. That is, you should allow the rocks to gel in with the soil for the set up to become natural. Once the soil has become compact and well-integrated with the different layers, then you can proceed to plant.
6. Set Your Plants
The final part might appear easy, but if you don’t get it right, then it might ruin your entire project. As discussed in the earlier section, you need to go for plants that thrive in soils with poor water retention. Also, ensure that the plants you select are in line with your intended theme.
Care and Maintenance
Luckily, maintaining a rock garden is not as hard as most people perceive. However, you will need a hands-on approach for your rock garden to thrive.
First, it is advisable to weed on a frequent basis, especially when the garden plants are establishing themselves.
When weeding, be sure to avoid the use of herbicides as the chemical components can affect other garden plants. Another way to maintain your garden is by adding crushed rocks to the exposed soil. By adding crushed rocks to the soil surface, you will reduce the chances of weeds sprouting as they will lack the optimum environment to thrive.
Consider mulching to protect your garden plants during the winter. Good mulching options include pine branches and spruce, among others. You should also prune regularly to ensure that all plants grow within their designated areas. Don’t hesitate to relocate unhappy plants that appear to be lacking something.
As you can see, building and maintaining a rock garden is not difficult provided you observe the right steps. Always monitor the progress of the plants to ensure that weeds do not sprout and challenge the plants for nutrients.
Inspired to start your own rock garden? Start preparing your materials with us!