Dealing with Rocky Soil

by April Reinhardt
(last updated July 13, 2015)

2

One of the most difficult challenges gardeners face is that of trying to grow plants in rocky soil. Imagine placing a seed onto a stone slab and expecting it to take root. Logic dictates that a plant won't grow on a rock slab, and the same holds true even if the rock is just under the surface of top soil. Since roots require nutrients from soil to grow, along with sun and water, plant roots cannot penetrate through rock to find the nutrients and water they need to survive. So, what can you do if you discover that your soil is rocky? While you can take extreme measures and hire a backhoe to burrow through rock, or even more drastic, blast through the rock, even those procedures might not alter the soil to the degree plants need to grow.

Instead, consider supplementing the existing topsoil with more soil to create at least a foot of growing soil above bedrock. The steps to amend soil for growing are simple enough. Follow these steps to amend rocky soil to create a perfect growing environment:

  1. Create compost to use in your existing soil from wood bark, wood chips, manure, leaves, leaf mold, grass and plant trimmings, stems, stalks, branches, and paper. Throw onto the hap any other organic matter you have, but take care not to use weeds or foodstuffs such as meat.
  2. Till your rocky soil with a garden tiller, and remove obvious large rocks. This step may take several days, depending upon the amount of soil you want to amend.
  3. Dump your compost on top of the tilled soil and till the area again and again.
  4. Continue to add compost over several weeks until you have at least one foot of rich soil to grow your plants.

While you could simply apply a layer of composted material and soil over the compacted rocky soil, doing so is counterproductive since the roots of plants go in search of water and food. The roots won't penetrate the rock and will, instead, wither and die. It is much better to take several months or years creating a perfect layer of growing material for your plants, rather than to rush and just have a few inches of pretty—but unusable—top soil.

You may also consider working with what you have and find plants that will grow in rocky soil. Visit your local extension office, or speak with the staff at a qualified nursery to determine which types of plants will grow in your local rocky soil, appropriate for your growing zone.

Author Bio

April Reinhardt

An admin­istrator for a mutual fund man­age­ment firm, April deals with the writ­ten word daily. She loves to write and plans to author a memoir in the near future. April attend­ed More­head State Uni­ver­sity to pursue a BA degree in Ele­men­tary Edu­ca­tion. ...

MORE FROM APRIL

Successful Garage Sales

If you've just a few items to sell at a garage sale, you could ask family, friends, or neighbors if they'd like to ...

Discover More

Cleaning a Sleeping Bag

Washing a sleeping bag can be tedious and time-consuming. The key to keeping your sleeping bag useful and in great condition ...

Discover More

Understanding Your Carbon Footprint

When you understand what your own individual carbon footprint is, and assess it entirely, you can then take steps to lessen ...

Discover More
MORE GARDENING TIPS

Understanding the Basic Soil Types

One of the keys to getting really good at gardening or landscaping is that you need to know what type of soil you are working ...

Discover More

Planting Herbs and Spices in a Shaded Area

Growing herbs and spices can be a great way to get started on gardening in general, and kitchen gardening in particular. But ...

Discover More

Building a Bottle Garden

If you like the look of a terrarium, but don't like the size you may want to look into building a bottle garden. It's not all ...

Discover More
Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Receive an e-mail several times each week with a featured gardening tip. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

Comments for this tip:

If you would like to add an image to your comment (not an avatar, but an image to help in making the point of your comment), include the characters [{fig}] in your comment text. You’ll be prompted to upload your image when you submit the comment. Images larger than 600px wide or 1000px tall will be reduced. Up to three images may be included in a comment. All images are subject to review. Commenting privileges may be curtailed if inappropriate images are posted.

What is 2 + 7?

2016-11-22 14:26:30

dennis gorman

Your method is not practical as I am talking about acres of clay with shale in every inch of it. BUT there are farms in the area that are productive. Do I disk or what. thx


2015-11-28 20:01:39

cathy o

I agree, we have very rocky soil because our land used to be a river bed. I have tilled it several times, removed large rocks, added several layers of mulch, compost, peat moss, perlite, and mulched leaves. I'll keep adding until I have at least a foot of this kind of medium over the rock. In winter, I either cover with black plastic or mulched leaves because the heat composts way down into the soil and softens it. But it is a tough medium to start in, what a lot of sweating went into that initially. Now it's beautiful


Videos

Subscribe to the Tips.Net channel:

Visit the Tips.Net channel on YouTube

Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Receive an e-mail several times each week with a featured gardening tip. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

(Your e-mail address is not shared with anyone, ever.)

Links and Sharing
  • Ask a Question
  • Make a Comment
  • Free Printable Forms
  • Free Calendars
  • Share