Please Don’t Rock Your Yard!

As an update to this post: spread mulch where you would have put rock. Read along about how taking permanent action against a short term problem, creates even more problems and stops permanent solutions.

While we were in Colorado there was a trend to rip out anything that was growing and replace it with a gravel landscape. Every time I saw someone ripping out their grass to do this: I wanted to throttle them. Here is why: rock is not low maintenance. I understand those who don’t garden are looking for a low maintenance option for their yard. Please. I beg you. Do not put gravel across your property!

Please Don't Rock Your Yard!!!
An example of what a rocked yard looks like after a few years.

Now it might seem counterintuitive to hear that rock is not low maintenance but rocks do not stop weeds. Sure: you might like the way it looks the first season you have it down, but gravel and rock are permanent. The problems associated with gravel and rock are permanent too.

Here are six very good reasons NOT to replace grass with gravel:

#1 You can’t rake up the leaves or other plant debris that drift into your gravel landscape.

Nature makes soil out of leaf litter. If you put rock down, the leaf litter will still come. It will create a layer of soil on top of your rock and in the end the rock layer and soil layer will be indistinguishable.
Nature makes soil out of leaf litter. If you put rock down, the leaf litter will still come. It will create a layer of soil on top of your rock. At some point the rock layer and soil layers will become a single unit.

Your gravel will look just like you want it to for about a season. However, as soon as you put it down: you will have things blow into your yard that you will need to pick up by hand. This will be an almost insurmountable task and delaying picking up organic matter will only create pockets of composted material (aka dirt) that weeds will take root in.

#2 Rock is expensive, it takes an enormous amount of effort to put it down. It is even harder (and way more expensive) to remove it.

Pea gravel runs a little over $4 a bag. If you are considering having a truck deliver a load from a local rock yard: you will also need to consider the delivery fee. You will need an enormous amount of rock to be successful.
Pea gravel runs a little over $4 a bag. If you are considering having a truck deliver a load from a local rock yard: you will also need to factor in the delivery fee into your quoted price. You will need an enormous amount of rock to be successful.

Digging out rock is a lot more labor than spreading it. It is backbreaking work to try and remove gravel because you have to do it shovel by shovel full. Gravel that has been down a while will settle into the soil below it. To get it up: it will need to be dug out. I was stuck with a strip of rock in our last yard. I had several contractors come out and bid to remove the strip. I couldn’t afford to remove the rock. We are talking $500 to remove it! It was way too heavy and too much work to do it ourselves…and if you know my blog: I am willing to do a lot. Once gravel is down: you are pretty much stuck with it. Even if you manage to get it all up, you will need to find a place that will take it, and there will be a disposal fee for it.

#3 Sooner or later you will end up with weeds.


The weeds will find a small patch of soil between stones. All it takes is a few leaves drifting in and sticking in your gravel to give weeds something to grow in. The first plants to move into an area after it has been cleared are called pioneer plants. These plants will grow where nothing else will grow. They usually have deep tap roots and are a pain to remove (Dandelions are a common pioneer plant. Nobody enjoys removing dandelions. In my experience though, the worst pioneer plants to pull from gravel are tree seedlings.) Pioneer plants are natures answer to events like fires, mudslides, overgrazing and volcanic activity. They also move in after man-made activities like clear cutting, grading land for development and in our farms and gardens. They will show up all over your gravel yard and they will require constant removal.

#4 Weeding through gravel is really hard work.


I love to garden, but I absolutely hate trying to weed through gravel and rock. Anyone who has done it will agree with me. You usually have to move gravel away from deep rooted plants to remove them (in the case of large rocks you will need to roll each one away from the weed to pull it.) The larger the size gravel or rock you are using the harder it will be to weed. Pea gravel is the easiest to weed through (outside of garden soil.)

If you have ever had to weed through gravel that has been down a few years: you know that weeding gets harder the more settled the rock gets. I lived in a home that had lava rock and crushed rock that had been down for decades. I absolutely hated it. It was down so long that it was like someone had just mixed the surrounding soil with a ton of rock. I couldn’t remove it, I couldn’t weed through it and I couldn’t get enough out with my shovel to plant through it. This experience showed me how permanent the choice to rock a yard becomes.

Rubbing your hands repeatedly on rocks while weeding will tear them up (and frequently bruise them) even with gloves. You will need to dig to remove most tree seedlings. The gravel will be in the way of the spade making for a frustrating experience.

Rock is way too much work!!!!

Herbicides aren’t the answer either. You can spray roundup all over your rock landscape but you are still going to have to pull the plant out after you kill it. Round up (or vinegar, boiling water, etc) doesn’t make the plant go away, it just makes it stop growing, turn brown and look ugly. You will still need to dispose of the plant. I don’t use spray in my beds, I prefer to hand pull weeds. Normally, in decent dirt, it’s quick work. In gravel or between rock: it is a long and laborious process.

Removing things like grass around rocks takes a while. It frequently means you need to move the rock to remove all of the weed.

My advice for weeds is: put on some gloves, grab a large screwdriver to dig out taproot plants (like dandelions) or get a hoe and remove the plant directly. Outside of use in maintaining a large grass lawn: I think herbicide is a waste of money. Spraying gravel with herbicide leaves the plant. You will still need to remove the plant, so why bother with the spray? You can use a pre-emergent herbicide across gravel if you already have some rock down. This will stop seeds from sprouting, but it is still a chemical and you’d be better off without the gravel in the first place. Weeding torches will remove the weed but they scorch rock. You also have to know what you are doing if you are going to use a torch. In a dry area you could easily start a fire that you can’t control.

My beloved stirrup hoe! (Like the one in this link. Some stores call it an action hoe.) I love it because it is super fast and I don’t have to bend over to get most weeds. You could use this in deep pea gravel but it would eventually ruin the blade on the hoe. Here is a good comparison of different weeding hoes: link They recommend a different kind of hoe. When my stirrup hoe dies I may try a different kind. Right now a stirrup hoe is my favorite way to weed.

As far as pushing for the idea of getting dirty in the first place: There are microbes in the soil that alleviate depression. This is an excellent reason to get dirty pulling weeds! That and natural vitamin D from the sun…what’s not to like about a little weeding? If you don’t enjoy weeding: don’t put something down like gravel and rock that will just make it harder. (It’s also been my personal experience that being inverted while weeding and planting seems to cause more blood flow to my brain and helps chase away the blues! Try it!)


#5 Most people don’t read up on how to lay rock mulch correctly.

Most recommendations I have seen say to use a minimum of 3 1/2 inches but 5-6 inches is ideal. At over 4 bucks a bag…pea gravel is an expensive option.

For a rock mulch to work it needs to be deep. To keep weeds out of the soil below you need to use a heavy duty landscape fabric underneath the rock. No matter what you do though: eventually you will end up with leaves and other organic matter over the top. These will eventually break down, fill in the spaces between rocks and support weeds.

#6 Rock does nothing to alleviate the heat island effect.


Rock reflects and absorbs heat. Plants create shade. There is a phenomenon called a “heat island”: the more pavement, the more asphalt and the less natural shade: the higher the ambient temperature. Cities are especially affected by this because flat (often man-made) surfaces are much better at heat retention and absorption than natural surfaces that have variations in depth.

If you think your summer is too hot: look around and see if there is a way to create some shade. City temperatures are up to 10 ̊ F (5.6 ̊ C) higher than rural areas. Here’s a government site that explains this: People in cities frequently equate their personal experience in a heat island with global warming. These are two different things, but if you don’t understand the two you aren’t going to be able to create solutions. Cities wouldn’t be so damned hot if they were designed with heat in mind.

Examining satellite images is a simple way to visualize what causes the heat island effect. When we were looking for a home I searched areas by looking them up on Google maps using the satellite image setting. I was completely awestruck with the amount of asphalt and concrete housing developments create. Even within the same developed area you will easily see what causes the huge discrepancies in the ambient temperatures caused by heat reflective/absorbing surfaces.

Here is a great example of an area that will contribute to a heat island effect. In this photo there is a huge parking lot with stores surrounding it. Everyone down here is aware of how concrete and asphalt absorb heat and then radiate it out until late in the evening. We can stay over 100 degrees after midnight in the summer. During those awfully hot times of the year: the concrete and asphalt stay hot to the touch until well after dark. A treed area does not absorb and radiate heat in the same way. (If you are interested in the technical side to this look up thermal radiation to see this effect in more detail.)
This housing area has unshaded: grass lawns, streets and sidewalks. There are a few immature trees. There is almost no shade to relieve summer heat in this area.
Here’s an example of what high density living does to the heat island effect. There is almost nothing but asphalt road, asphalt shingles and concrete. People who live in apartments and town homes don’t have yards to take care of, but they are completely surrounded by the worst of the heat offenders. I would imagine it is pretty miserable outside in the summer in this area.
Here is a good shade example: These houses are benefiting from the shade of mature trees. This area has intense shade. The trees are so large that you can’t see the homes. You can tell the streets and sidewalks are shaded. These people probably can’t have a vegetable garden, but their homes are going to cost less to cool and their yards will be much more enjoyable.

All of these examples are choices. If the problem stems from having the original trees removed to develop land: the solution could involve homeowners who later choose to plant large shade trees. The choice of a resident in a high density home like an apartment could be: to show the managers and owners examples like what I have put in this article. See if there is room for more trees. If not: a balcony with a few plants can be a personal choice to add a little shade. Planters (of any size) around high heat areas can be an inexpensive way to start. Those who don’t want lawns can choose not to rock their yards and instead search for low maintenance perennials. There’s always room to apply solutions, no matter the size of the impact.

My neighbor’s tree graciously offers shade as I wait for the school bus. Trees need water, but unlike rock: they offer a solution, not more problems.

If you see a problem and you know the answer: find a way to implement the solution. Solutions don’t need to be huge overhauls. Solutions start with one person who has the will to make a difference in what they have the authority to change. Make your personal changes while you share what you know with others.

Nature makes shade. Man makes reflective surfaces. Unfortunately, down here (and in most of the world) the habit is to tear down trees, clear brush, cover everything in man made surfacing that is heat absorbing or reflective and maybe add some grass. In comparison to the natural state of things, we create some ugly (and not especially intelligent, in regard to heat) structures and surfaces.

I’d never really noticed how different the satellite images are between the subdivisions and the country until we moved down here and I started looking at areas to buy a home. Miles of concrete and asphalt make heat islands possible. Trees can be a part of a larger solution. Rocking yards just contributes to the heat island affect.


If you don’t want to take care of lawn grass: consider planting some trees, wildflowers and perennial ornamental grasses. Think about what the builders in your area had to remove to build your home. See if it makes sense to replace some of that original plant material.

If you live in the United States and are at a loss as to where to start with plants:

In your computer’s search bar: put the name of your county and “county extension”. This will pull up the county sponsored horticultural experts in your area. Hopefully you have access to local people who are Master Gardeners. Master Gardeners earn (and keep) that designation by volunteering hours educating the public. Don’t have anyone local? Find a university in your state. Most universities have an agriculture or botany expert. Use their expertise!!!! They should be able to point you towards people and groups that can help you. Extension advice is usually free. Most plant people are excited to share with new gardeners and want to encourage you to learn.

You will also find pages of information on your local extension office website directly relating to whatever planting questions you have. Most importantly: you won’t feel so overwhelmed that you want to give up and rock your yard.

To be successful: start slow and do your research. The tab at the top of this page called “Gardening Basics” will walk you through the process. If you choose to use the information provided: you will be able to make informed decisions and be happy with your property for years to come.


If you are in a dry or hot climate you definitely need to create shade, so plant some shrubs and trees. Native plants are usually xeric (low water) and fairly low maintenance. It is a combination of the terms xeros ξήρος (Greek for “dry”) and landscaping.

Look up xeriscaping online. High Country Gardens is a great place to start: Xeric Zones. They have a ton of great information. Their site is a great place to see xeric plant variety examples. You can get an idea of what you are going to get with xeric plants.

xeric plant choices under a tree.

Even if the native shrubs and trees for your area are some scraggly, funky looking varieties: it is so much better to add green and shade than go without! Native flowers are also better nectar sources than plants that have been bred for showy flowers. You will make the bees, butterflies and hummingbirds happy with native plants.

Nature will not allow you to keep her out. She will eventually win, and those who fight her, will end up with a yard full of tall weeds that have lots of seed and insignificant flowers. Something will grow. You get to decide what that will be.

Tickseed (coreopsis) A beautiful spreading perennial that is long blooming.
Tickseed (coreopsis) A beautiful spreading perennial that is long blooming.

Go out and plant something: It’s important!

If you enjoyed this article please make sure to share it with others (especially if you are involved with a Home Owner Association or other property governing system.)

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85 thoughts on “Please Don’t Rock Your Yard!

  1. I’m in 100% agreement with the entire rock-faux lawn thing. Plants/grass adds and gives so much more to the environment. The last few pics of yor blog are absolutely gorgeous – especially that twisting tree. It looks like it’s on its way up to the clouds.
    Thank yo for sharing your expertise.

    1. Thank you! I think people would choose better alternatives to rock if they had more information. Out of all of the photos I’ve taken: the twisted oak is one of my very favorites. I’m glad you liked it too!

  2. I made the mistake of trying to create a rock path in my backyard…now its the need weeding weekly path…I agree with your sentiment s 100%

  3. Ah, this post is great. I live in Serbia and I would have thought this sort of thing wouldn’t be a problem. But it is! Here the compound style homes are laden with concrete instead of lawns. Small patches are left for tiny gardens or Grass if they can maintain it. Thanks for all the good info! I love it 🙂 I learned a lot!

    1. Thank you for sharing. I will watch your blog to hear more. Serbia seems so rugged and beautiful from your photos. Rock is always a poor choice. I don’t know if I’ve ever heard that anyone liked it long term!

    1. Please do! My main purpose is to educate. If you find a way to use it with credits: I am okay with you sharing! Thank you for liking it enough to pass the information on.

  4. Some excellent points. I think (though I’m not a scientist) that a lot of the flooding we had in the UK this winter was made much worse because people have paved over their front gardens to make parking spaces. The water had nowhere to soak away. Making some growing instead of parking space is a small thing everyone can do to make a big difference.

    1. When I was a kid we lived on a small creek. The more development upstream the worse our seasonal floods were. I would definitely agree with you that what we do to naturally catch water is important. The last place we lived was Colorado. They had mandatory green belts to slow the flooding. It was a fantastic idea. Thank you so much for sharing your experience! I’m glad you enjoyed the post.

    2. Yes, you could be right! My neighbour is concerned that if I dig up my front lawn for plants we will have flooding but I think it is the asphalt drive that has to go (at least we are at the top of a hill).

  5. I know all about rock – it is much worse than perenial weeds!!!
    I’m in the process of getting rid of it in two separate places and have all the issues you describe. Even with a membrane down in one patch there are still weeds and embedded rock.
    I’ve noticed the heat effect too. My house is on the edge of a housing estate and it is 0.5°C cooler – and we live in a village!

    1. I’m glad you’ve decided to remove it. Good luck! I think it’s a great disservice that people who sell rock don’t steer their customers towards a better product. If people who’ve had it share their experiences enough times, with enough people: maybe we can slow the trend down. Thank you for letting people know how bad it is by sharing your experience here!

      1. Thank you for your feedback.

        I actually acquired the rock when I bought the property and would probably never have chosen it anyway – seems a pointless adornment and definitely not good for children who might fall on it. It really does no good for the environment and is unsightly to boot.

  6. On the positive side. Rock does not need water. Here in Arizona, the town has forbidden lawns, they require too much very scarce water. Removing wind blown leaf litter simply requires a leaf blower. Weeds can be removed by burning. Rocks keep the dust down as much as possible in a dry place. Do I miss a green lawn? Sure, but I like having drinking water much more.

    1. I think the desert may be the only place rock works. But that is a part of the natural landscape in Arizona. I’m glad to have a dissenting view on here! It just proves that there are exceptions to every rule. Thank you for taking the time to comment.

  7. Another reason or two… Many in Arizona where I live use rock mulch for large areas and weeding is no problem — if you don’t mind spraying weedkiller all over your yard periodically. Weedkillers go in the water supply and cause bad effects on life there. Or maybe on people who end up drinking it. And, when you want to plant things in a rocked yard, the rock seems inevitably to be mixed with the soil. The best approach is to plant native desert plants. Sometimes it takes a while for them to adapt and often it can be best to just use a little water to encourage the natives that sprout there. The reward for your patience is a beautiful desert landscape, and lots of happy desert creatures. I have lizards, quail, doves, Abert’s Towhees, toads, king snakes, rabbits, harris antelope squirrels, round-tailed ground squirrels, rock squirrels, butterflies, lots of other birds, and a yard full of flowers in the Spring. It’s low maintenance, and less than a quarter acre!

      1. As summer approaches, lawn maintenance, water conservancy and heat issues will quickly become the topics du jour. Thanks for bringing this to everyone’s attention now. I agree that swapping lawn for rocks is not a great option but, as I mentioned in my posting gardeners in California, for instance, are having to come up with creative alternatives to grass. There’s a good New York Times article about this, too. The link is in my post. I grew up with a garden in Washington that, basically, only had four elements to it: beauty bark, oak trees, rhododendrons and a poured cement patio. No lawn and rarely any weeds, thanks to the super thick layer of mulch. That place was always cool and green thanks to the trees. Kudos to you for getting this discussion going and exploring this important issue.

      2. I believe there’s always room for plants. Xeric, endemic plant species can be just as beautiful as their nursery counterparts. I never advocate rock, but it takes opening eyes and spreading the word about alternatives. There’s a mail order nursery that specializes in xeric plants called high country gardens and they have beautiful specimens. Where we lived in Colorado was very dry, but the rocked yards didn’t stay nice for long. The trees surrounding newly rocked yards quickly died from lack of water. I suppose you either love it or hate it (with most people on the “hate it” side.) Thanks for coming by and commenting. Water conservation is indeed becoming an important topic as cities in dry areas enlarge and pressure on aquifers increase.

  8. Wonderful article! I totally agree, although we don’t see much “rocking” here in the mountains of western North Carolina (unless it’s on a front porch.) We don’t even try to get rid of our weeds. I think they are as beautiful as the flowers we plant in our perennial garden! Thanks for visiting my blog. Come back when you can – you are always welcome!

    1. Thank you! The wildflowers here in Texas are welcome in my yard as well. Unfortunately, we also have thorny, nasty stuff that is not. Thank you for stopping by and commenting. I appreciate it.

  9. What an awesome post. When I was a little girl, my grandmother decided to turn her backyard into a stone/rock garden. Every inch of it, and it was a large lot, was sectioned off and filled with different types/colors stone. It was a huge project that her and my grandfather did when he retired. What I remember about her yard, and pretty much her as well, was that the two weeks every year my brother and I spent with my grandparents was spent picking out the helicopter seeds that had fallen into the stone from her 30 year old maple tree. There was no way to easily remove the thousands of seeds that fell every year, so my brother and I spent hour after hour with a bucket and our hands picking them up. It was miserable. I learned then that stone was not the way to go. I hope more people realize that rock is not the way to go for so many reasons. Also, thank you for stopping by my blog and liking my post “Going to Work.” I truly appreciate it.

    1. You have a great blog and I enjoyed reading about your lack of canning space. That’s always an issue at our house too. Thank you for coming by and sharing.

  10. I think people use rock because it takes no water and in all the West water is increasingly becoming a huge issue and there is less and less of it. Xeroscape plants are not easy to find in some places but they work very well and are pretty contrary to what some people think before they try them.

    1. Xeric plants are basically wildflowers. There are tons of online companies that sell wildflower seeds. If you put rock down and you end up not liking it you are stuck with it. Xeric plants still need water until they establish but there are always better options than rock. I agree water use is a big topic. It will take people focused on solutions to change the trend of trying to ban nature.

  11. I just quickly scanned this and wow! We rocked a part of our yard years ago and got all these problems and more. Now that we’ve let the plants take back over it looks better and we get less flooding.

    1. Flooding is another issue rock causes. I’m hoping to get the message out and talk people out of going down that path. Rock landscapes can certainly become a nightmare. Thank you so much for commenting, I appreciate it!

  12. Wonderful piece! I think most people get into rocks without thinking. Rock gardens are ‘tons’ of work, pun intended and not for the inexperienced.
    Thanks for the like on my blog also. Did you leave a comment? The spam filter is being troublesome, so let me know and I’ll poke Word Press to fix it.

  13. As someone who had to pull up rock when my mom wanted to change her yard, all I have to say is “Amen!” to this post! Don’t do it!

  14. Our new neighbours ripped out the shrubbery and paved their garden with clinical whitish slabs in the spirit of low maintenance. Now on a regular basis it’s green and covered in bird poo. Shame! That’s hard work to clean off!

  15. Thanks for this great and informative article. I don’t understand why people buy a house with a garden then concrete over the garden. The amount of concrete in our towns was one of the reasons we had so many floods this year.

    1. Flooding is definitely a problem when the water has no way to absorb into the surrounding area. I’m hoping people think twice before adding things like concrete and rock. Thank you for coming by and commenting! I appreciate it.

    1. I camped out in February in Kansas when I was young. We made hobo stew and even though it was probably awful we thought it was great because it was part of the experience. Good luck on the trail!

  16. Wow extremely enlightening as I used to always nag my parents to get rid of the weed problen through gravel. Will bear this in mind when I grow up and hopefully have my own garden 🙂 (one day!)

    1. I’m a lot older than you and I came to the same conclusion at your age (however, traveling the world is still on my to do list.) Your life’s time is yours to spend and only you get to decide how that goes. I have never regretted doing my own thing! Thanks for approving of my passion. I appreciate it that you dropped by!

  17. The only thing worse than a graveled yard, is a graveled yard with landscape fabric under it. Thanks for putting great information out there.

  18. Thank you for the info. I was just browsing some of the articles and saw that I should google my county’s extension office and wanted to thank you for the tip.

    1. County extension offices are always the best places to get information. I hope you find the answers for your questions. Thank you for stopping by! I appreciate it.

  19. Thanks for liking my post and, in the course of doing so, introducing me to your grerat site. Lots of good info and tips here. And I agree wholeheartedly about not rocking your yard!

  20. In different homes I’ve had rock. One in Colorado Springs only had an island of rock in the middle of the yard with two trees, a bush and Colorado Columbine growing in it. It was simple to maintain and was a nice contrast to the surrounding grass.
    In another home in Phoenix there was river rock that was overgrown with bermuda grass when I moved in. It was a constant BATTLE to keep it clean plus it was a breeding heaven for crickets. River rock is absolutely a HORRIBLE thing to have in your yard.
    My current townhouse in Phoenix has a small backyard with about 1/3 filled with crushed granite. The trick to easy maintenance is expensive. Make sure the rock layer is two to three inch deep. Then when weeds pop up (they will), they are easy to pull by hand.
    The other areas of the yard are concrete and a planter edging with roses. After two years of hand weeding the weed control is simple. I spend about 5 minutes every morning doing a quick once over and immediately get rid of anything foreign.
    For me rock is okay in small doses.

    1. You are the second person who has had a good experience with rock. I agree you can maintain small patches of rock if you are consistent. The problem with rock is that it’s permanent. If you don’t like it once it’s down removal is outrageous. I have lived where rock had been down for decades and it was a mess. I think there are better choices for large applications. I’ve seen rock look nice as dry stream beds in a low water garden or as gravel mulch around xeric plantings. But those are part of a landscape with plants. I have seen many people pull everything living out, and then put rock down. I believe they were thinking that they would never have to deal with yard maintenance again. I think any large decision about a landscape should have all sides presented. For me, I would rather have just about anything other than rock down. We were in the Springs, too. The high winds there make wood mulch difficult to maintain. We had some areas that were rocked there…had we stayed longer I would have pulled it and put native plantings in. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on rock! I appreciate it.

  21. Oh no! I have started putting pea gravel around my two small raised garden beds. It became awkward and difficult to mow around my beds since there isn’t much room between them and the house and the fence. I thought the rocks would eliminate this problem–which they have. The rest of our yard is and always will be grass. 🙂 However, from what I’ve read here on your post, it looks like I’ve added a whole new set of problems by adding rock! Thanks for the wealth of information!

  22. Thanks for stopping by and expressing support. I wish I had a house for gardening and my own vegetable garden. Got a post on how to green your apartment?

    1. I can definitely write one! I have a best friend who has always had vining plants run along the walls in her place with small tacks or nails. You can do all kinds of things to help the indoor air quality by adding plants. Here’s a great list of plants that are “indestructible” house plants. I’m not a fan of this nursery’s plant quality but you can certainly get some great ideas from them: You can get a lot of these plants at local nurseries. If you have pets or kids make sure you don’t get a plant that would make them sick if they ate it.

  23. Reblogged this on My Inspired Life and commented:
    Just had to reblog this information because I see so much of this where I live!! Get inspired and pull the weeds both out of your yard and out of your life!!!! The time is now!!

  24. We have rocky soil in our garden and I agree – adding rocks to garden beds does not stop weeds and is not low maintenance! 🙂

  25. We do have pebbles in our yard, but it was not a decision we made lightly. Every other place we lived, we had green yards and gardens, but after living in the desert for 20 some years, we made the leap.

    Part of it was aging and so far (2 years) this has been low maintenance. My husband is handicapped and could not continue to do the lawns (nor could I), nor could we afford gardeners.

    One of the biggest things, though, is that it is irresponsible to use tons of water, all brought in from northern CA to keep an artificially green condition in the desert. The local water company was and will continue to raise water rates sky high, so it is cost prohibitive and environmentally unsound.

    Hubby would have been content to just have rocks 🙂 but I needed some color. So what we did is create patterns of red paver paths to break up the grey pebbles, and we have sections here an there with drought resistant plants. All plants and trees are on drip. I still have several rose beds on drip, and a re-purposed wheel barrel full of mostly annuals adds color in the front.

    I wanted something that would not make me or my neighbors cringe, and I think we accomplished that. It was a matter for us of weighing cost, environment, and labor. Would I prefer green and gardens? Absolutely. But not here.

    1. I recommend learning more about xeric plants and zones through this site: There are also low water lawn alternatives: But if where you live has nothing growing naturally (because there is not enough water to sustain plants) then you are in an area that rock works. Not many people outside of true desert areas fall into that category. I frequently wonder why the desert is an attractive place to call home when water is so scarce. I know a lot of people in Arizona. It’s incredibly beautiful out there but human stress on the natural aquifers will eventually make cities and towns unsustainable. Replacing the plants builders removed to build your home is the way to go: no matter where you live or what the rate of rainfall. Good luck with your landscape, it sounds like you put a lot of thought into it.

  26. It’s actually more about water conservation out here in the desert than maintenance. We, or at least I, do encourage trees, from drought tolerant chinese elms, planted near our leach field so I don’t have to water them and which provide abundant shade. We also have the natural mesquite trees which, if allowed to grow and do their thing, also provide good shade. The amount of water it takes to keep lawns here is astronomical, which is why we use rocks even though they are more difficult to maintain. Leaf blowers handle the leaves falling from the trees pretty well since most trees adapted to this environment don’t shed much. There’s also a handy dandy long handled tool specifically for use in weeding gravel yards, that scrapes below the gravel and chops out deeply rooted weeds and pulls smaller shallow growing weeds up complete with roots. We also can use long handled propane torches to turn the weeds to ash the moment they peep up from the rocks and also come in handy for any fallen leaves left behind by the leaf blower. There are good, relatively easy and inexpensive ways to maintain a gravel yard without resorting to chemicals or weed cloth. Drought is now part of our lives. With climate change, every drop of water used in dry areas better be important.

    1. I am surprised you are raising animals and have a farm if the land around you is so arid. That has got to be difficult. I’m glad you shared your view. It seems there are a few people who enjoy rock, but they seem to all be living in the desert…which is mostly barren as far as plants in the first place. I hope you continue to be able to create your dream farm with the levels of drought the southwest has been experiencing. Hopefully your aquifer will continue to support your choice to live in the desert. I agree trees (even scraggly mesquite) are important for shade. Replacing whatever has been cleared to create your home might be an answer to some of the heat and your concern for the environment around you. I’m glad you have found some answers to living in an arid area. Thank you for coming by and taking the time to share your opinion. I appreciate the visit.

  27. I love your blog. I’m following you now, and I love what you say about rock gardening. We need trees. I love trees.

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