“Help, my soil is full of stones!”
Rocks and stones in soil can cause a few problems for gardeners.
They can cause damage to machinery and make growing some vegetables difficult (especially tap roots like carrots and parsnips).
It is possible to grow vegetables if you have stony soil but the techniques you choose to overcome potential problems will depend on the quantity and size of the stones and what you hope to grow.
If you have lots of stones in your soil then you have a few options:
If the soil is compacted then gently loosen it with a strong fork.
Resist the urge to turn or till the soil as this will expose and destroy the delicate ecosystem we talked about in “the best way to prepare soil for a vegetable garden“.
Pick up any large stones (over 2 inches) that you unearth. If you find large rocks then these can be useful to create raised beds and walls in your garden.
Removing stones is hard work but will increase usability and help to improve soil structure.
Nurture your soil by adding a thick layer of organic matter (5-15cm thick). This will increase the number of organisms who will help to loosen the soil and add nutrients. The mulching prevents soil erosion and retains moisture.
The earthworms will airate the soil by creating channels which will help water to penetrate too. They’ll also help to bring stones to the surface for you to collect.
If you’re set on removing as many stones as possible so then sieving is an option.
Sieving is pretty labour intensive but it will get rid of stones from your top soil.
You’ll need to double dig and seive the soil as you go.
Add a spadefull of organic matter (manure, compost) in each trench before filling it in and repeating.
The following methods will greatly reduce the amount of time and effort needed to clear out your lawn, whether you need to dig deep or just clean up the surface.
If the ideas above don’t suit you then a great option is to build a raised bed.
If you have more soil than rocks you can also use a combination of in-ground planting for shallow rooted crops like leafy greens and leeks and raised beds for vegetables that like stone free soil like carrots and parsnips.
There are a few ways to build a raised bed and we’ve shared some of the best raised bed ideas in this post.
Choosing a raised bed means that you can control the quality of what it is filled with.
Lay some cardboard on the bottom of the bed before watering it and covering with layers of organic matter (straw, compost, manure) and top soil.
We’ve got a more detailed post which looks at a few different options for filling a raised bed cheaply here.
Containers and bales can be used to grow vegetables that take up a lot of space in a raised bed. Try potatoes in straw towers and squashes on top of the compost heap. There are a multitude of options!
Remember, to take a look at our full post on the best way to prepare soil for a vegetable garden.
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