How to make a garden rockery

Written by andrea stein
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How to make a garden rockery
Making a garden rockery creates a visually striking feature. (Zoonar RF/Zoonar/Getty Images)

A rockery can create an eye-catching focal point in any garden. Creating a rockery that looks natural and provides the proper drainage and dry conditions for your plants can be challenging, but with proper planning and a little know-how, the process should go smoothly. Follow these steps to make your garden rockery.

Skill level:
Moderate

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Things you need

  • Spray nozzle
  • String
  • Sand
  • Stakes
  • Hose
  • Wheelbarrow
  • Hoe
  • Hammer
  • Large rocks
  • Shovel
  • Compost
  • Trowel
  • Gravel
  • Topsoil
  • Garden fork
  • Gardening gloves
  • Back brace

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Choose a location for your garden rockery. Check to make sure the soil has good drainage, or is positioned so it does not easily retain water. A slope provides good drainage conditions. Position a garden hose along the ground so it outlines the contours of your desired rockery.

  2. 2

    Use a hammer to drive in stakes along the length of the hose. Tie string around the base of the stakes to connect them together and form the shape of your rockery. Remove the hose.

  3. 3

    Remove any weeds within the area of your rockery by pulling them up by hand. Use a garden hoe to dig out any deep roots. Also remove any other debris, including leaves, twigs and any rocks you do not want to use in your rockery.

  4. 4

    Begin positioning stones in the rockery. Start at the perimeter, or just inside the staked outline of the rockery, and place the largest rocks there. Position smaller and medium-sized rocks in an alternating pattern between the large rocks. Also place medium and smaller rocks in the centre of the garden. Level out the ground beneath the stones as necessary, using the back of a trowel or your shovel. This will help secure the rocks in place.

  5. 5

    Pour gravel in a 2.5 cm (1 inch) layer into your rockery to promote water drainage. Spread the layer with the back of your shovel so it evenly covers the entire rockery. Pour on 2.5 cm (1 inch) of topsoil, and then add a layer of compost. Pour in a final layer of sand to the same thickness. Smooth out and spread all the layers evenly, using the shovel.

  6. 6

    Use a garden hose adjusted to the spray setting to spray the rockery until the layers are fully saturated with water. Give the rockery a week to absorb the water. Push a garden fork through the layers on a daily basis throughout the week, twisting the garden fork to help combine the sand, topsoil and compost layers. Spray the rockery again after the week is over. Allow the layers to soak for one additional week.

  7. 7

    Plant a small combination of plants the first year. Combine such plants as small bushes, perennials and ground covers to give your rockery more visual interest. Use plants that require good drainage and thrive in dry conditions. The second year, add more plants to sufficiently fill your garden rockery.

Tips and warnings

  • When determining the outline for your garden rockery, be sure to keep the area small enough to allow you to easily reach across the rockery for weeding and plant care.
  • Always wear safety gloves when working with stones to prevent injury.
  • Wear a back brace when lifting the larger stones to prevent back strain or more serious injuries.

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