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Permaculture rocks - no, I mean actual rocks  RSS feed

 
Tracy Wandling
steward
Posts: 1650
Location: Cortes Island, British Columbia. Zone: 8ish Lat: 50; Rainfall: 50" ish; sand and rocks; well water
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As I’m sure many of us have experienced, we inherited past owners' ‘stuff’ when we bought our property: outbuildings, in various stages of disrepair; a bunch of tomato cages, which I have put to good use; greek oregano and sage growing profusely; fruit trees; and rocks. Lots of rocks. Big ones, small ones . . . you know how it goes. There was even a very large boulder in the bedroom. I mean, so large that we had to drill it and split it in half to get it out the door, and even then it barely fit. Apparently they actually built the house around the rock.

I’ve attached some images of rocks - and the first ones are just in the our little fenced front yard by the house. Then there's the 'big tree rocks', and the 'handy garden rocks'.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I really love rocks. I like to paint them (watercolor paintings, not actually paint on them). I love the mossy miniature forests that grow on them. I love the sense of stability and permanence they give off. Loves me some rocks. But, we have a LOT of rocks.

So, I’ve been thinking of ways that I can utilize this 'gift of abundance' in a permaculturey way, and not end up with a massive pile of unwanted rocks somewhere on the property. Seems a waste of a resource, as well as a waste of space. And The Man is decidedly unimpressed with the rocks. So I want to make some suggestions for uses for them.

Our rocks are generally roundish, so not excellent for building rock walls, unfortunately. But I'm sure there are ways . . .

Rocks can be really handy. There are the usual suspects:

• holding things open
• holding things closed
• holding things up
• holding things down
• holding things in
• holding things out

And some other things:

• heat sinks
mulch
• making things attractive (if you have nice rocks)
• lizard/snake homes

So I thought it might be interesting and helpful if people could show how they have used rocks in their permaculture endeavours, and perhaps give others (such as myself) some good ideas for utilizing this abundant and not-going-anywhere-soon resource.

They don’t have to be revolutionary ideas, just throw up some good pics of how you’ve used rocks in your gardens or around your property. Could be fun.

Thanks for playing!

Cheers
Tracy
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Rocks of all shapes and sizes, in a tiny front yard.
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Big tree. Big rocks.
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Rocks holding the netting down. Handy little things.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Posts: 9740
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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I have oodles of smallish rocks, which I'm using as thermal mass around gardens.

Future Lemon garden:



Also as erosion berms:




 
Tracy Wandling
steward
Posts: 1650
Location: Cortes Island, British Columbia. Zone: 8ish Lat: 50; Rainfall: 50" ish; sand and rocks; well water
320
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Oh, I like the erosion berms. I can think of a few places that we could build some of those - to keep the forest from sliding into the front yard. Thanks!
 
Becky Proske
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Location: Wisconsin, USA (zone 4b)
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In the spirit of Micheal Grab and Gravity Glue, I've been stacking stones in certain places where i walk around the property. The rocks are smallish in size, not very big. My favorite place to put them are on top of fence posts. The birds sit on them, the wind or cattle knock them over, but usually one or two remain. I restack them a little differently each time i pass. It's an easy, interactive and enjoyable form of art in the landscape. I see it as an opportunity to pause, balance and enjoy the view around me. Mini retaining walls, pathway edging and stepping stones are other ways we've made use of rocks in the garden.
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Stones on fence post
 
Tracy Wandling
steward
Posts: 1650
Location: Cortes Island, British Columbia. Zone: 8ish Lat: 50; Rainfall: 50" ish; sand and rocks; well water
320
bee books chicken forest garden fungi hugelkultur trees
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Well, I love THAT. Excuse me, I think I need to go for a walk around the property . . .
 
Karen Donnachaidh
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Location: Virginia (zone 7)
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Decoratively stacked rocks are called cairns. Mine, of course, are called "Karen's cairns". When you have as many as we do you have to learn to love them. Every flowerbed and raised bed are encircled with rock. We made a rock foundation under our shed. All along the creek I've got stacked cairns. The waters sometimes takes them all and you start over. I keep every heart shaped rock get and place it at the base of the Holly tree. One cairn down the creek is topped with a chunk of concrete that I thought looked like a monkey skull.
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Heart collection
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Monkey skull
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Rock circle, cairns under fern
 
Kate Muller
Posts: 212
Location: New Hampshire
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I live in the Granite State. NH in general is full of rocks. We are currently collecting all the rocks we dig up gardening to line our garden pond with. We have super sandy soil and we will be getting a liner for our garden pond that will not seal on it's own. The rocks will hold the liner in place and create habitat for whatever moves into the pond.

I have friends that have used larges rocks for creating terraces.

Stone walls are everywhere here in NH. Most of them are made with rounded rocks due to the large number of them dropped here when the last glaciers left.

We have a few larger rocks staged in the garden as seating.
 
Gilbert Fritz
Posts: 1306
Location: Denver, CO
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I don't have rocks at my home property; so I'm importing tons of broken concrete. Retaining walls, pond edging, etc.
 
Tracy Wandling
steward
Posts: 1650
Location: Cortes Island, British Columbia. Zone: 8ish Lat: 50; Rainfall: 50" ish; sand and rocks; well water
320
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Karen: More wonderful whimsy! I'm really looking forward to stacking some rocks now. I think I could become quite attached to doing that. I know I need creativity, whimsy and mystery in my life - it's nice to see that others do too, and are creating it in such lovely ways.

Kate: Love the idea of stone seating! I mean, we do sit on the rocks, but they would look cool arranged like chairs around a table . . . hhhmmm . . . must get The Man to bring the tractor around.

Gilbert: That is a very sad story. Boy do I have some rocks for ya . . . But glad to see you are repurposing a great resource.

Thanks for playing everyone!
 
Jocelyn Campbell
master steward
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Location: Missoula, MT
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What an awesome thread! Here at base camp, we live on rocks, rocks and more rocks. I keep wondering if the plants like it as much as they do because of the mineral availability.

There are so many rocks that we don't try to put fence posts in the ground - we make rock jacks instead. Here's Evan's pic of one holding up wire fencing in our first paddock:



I've also been edging garden beds or creating mulch rings around trees and shrubs with rocks. Kai thinks the rock mulch almost works as a miniature air well when we do that.

Some of our rocks are flat-ish and can be used as steps or pavers. Here is a rinky-dink path I made in a garden bed at the front of the house in March 2015.



I've planted creeping thyme and creeping mint between these which is finally starting to fill in, and edged more of the garden with more stones, though I don't have a good recent pic. I'd actually like to make more of these little paths, transforming the whole front garden bed into a keyhole garden style.

 
Tracy Wandling
steward
Posts: 1650
Location: Cortes Island, British Columbia. Zone: 8ish Lat: 50; Rainfall: 50" ish; sand and rocks; well water
320
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Hi Jocelyn; Rock jacks! I'm definitely going to look into that. What a great idea. And I love your little path. Another great use of rocks. It will look fab with the creeping thyme (one of my faves.) I think I'll do that in my garden, in the shady bits. Too hot to walk on rocks in the sunny places!

I'm getting some great ideas!
 
Gilbert Fritz
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Location: Denver, CO
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I'm going to be using some rock (if I can find them!) as a rock mulch in my dry land farming experiment. Rock mulches convert misty rain which will evaporate of the surface into a ground infiltrating trickle off the edge of the rock. At least that is the idea! I don't think you need this with 50" of rain! We get 14" here in Denver, most of which comes in impressive looking thunderstorms that dump a tenth of an inch in a few minutes. Which creates flash flooding . . . and a bone dry garden next morning since it does not infiltrate. Rocks should direct this water into the ground and then keep it there, unlike mulch which will absorb it on top and then evaporate it.
 
Tracy Wandling
steward
Posts: 1650
Location: Cortes Island, British Columbia. Zone: 8ish Lat: 50; Rainfall: 50" ish; sand and rocks; well water
320
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Yes, Jocelyn also mentioned the 'air well' idea, which is brilliant. I'm going to give that a try too. We might get lots of rain in the winter (although, this past winter wasn't nearly as rainy), but we get nada in the summer. It's already crazy dry here, plus we just have sand, no soil to speak of. So I'm going to try the rock mulch/air well trick in my garden, too. I'm very much interested in dry land farming experiments. Let us know how it goes!
 
jared strand
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The last place I lived, we had TONS (literally) of rocks. Piles of them at the edges of every farm field, and more would "float" to the surface every time the farmer tilled. He would collect and pile them at the edges again.
There were so many I thought of building English style walls for my sheep.
Now, I have NO rocks where I am. It's great for fencing, being able to put in posts, but I LIKE rocks. As some have mentioned, thermal mass is a great use for them. Outlining garden beds, filling holes to prevent erosion or tire ruts, and sheep LOVE to climb on rocks (and it helps to wear their hooves, so I can trim less often)
 
Anthony Callina
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Location: North Dakota
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These Rocks ROCK!
 
Karen Donnachaidh
pollinator
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Pictures of:
Birdbath encircled with rocks has 2 small tomato plants and even smaller basil planted in the wood chips. A short rock wall behind it where my cukes are just now coming up (I'll trellis them with t-post and string.) A small BTE garden beyond that.

The barn/dog pen/raised beds we built when the tornado took our other one has a rock foundation that our lizards love. The old wash machine on the right we painted green and turned into a planter.

It was my job to chunk little rocks in the crevices of the larger ones in the foundation but I haven't completed my job yet.
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Dj Ybarra
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Location: Kansas, 6b
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Hi Tracy, you can make an herb spiral. I don't have a picture available but they're easy to find online. Unfortunately, around here we have to buy rocks.
 
Tracy Wandling
steward
Posts: 1650
Location: Cortes Island, British Columbia. Zone: 8ish Lat: 50; Rainfall: 50" ish; sand and rocks; well water
320
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Hi Jared; I like rocks too. I would miss them if they weren't here, I'm sure. I'm considering getting sheep as well, so they should enjoy the rocks!

Hi Anthony; I know, right?!

Hi Karen; I love that stone foundation. It looks wonderful. Maybe when I build by studio, I'll try to incorporate something like that. (I have a few jobs that I was 'supposed' to do. I'm gettin' there . . . )

Hi Dj: Yes! That's the first thing I did with my new Permaculture knowledge! It's kind of a hugelkulture kitchen garden spiral - in it's second summer, and doing beautifully. I see that I'm going to have to trim back that sage soon . . .

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Herb spiral June 6/16
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Herb spiral June6/16
 
Erika Rogalski
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Location: Lake Stevens, United States
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We recently pulled up all the pavers in our backyard and found we had a lovely habitat for this little salamander! The pavers as a path weren't working, just creating what I call weed holes. We relocated the pavers to create an obstacle course for an RC truck, and relocated our new friend as well.
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m louka
Posts: 9
Location: Vermont USDA zone 5a
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every time i plant, i have to remove rocks. i pile them in the tire tracks then - when the fray of seeding is over and the fray of weeding has started - i load them into the tractor bucket. i'm no longer plowing so i'm hoping it will be fewer each year.
i put them in the field road and they smash down into the mud with each drive. i dump them around the barn foundation so the sand isn't carried away from the rain. i have them as my stoops and along footpaths on top of gravel so the gravel doesn't disperse as easily.
i put 10 tractor buckets in my barn foundation before the concrete was poured.
i dumped a tractor bucket of large stones over the river bank so that i could create a stairway on the steep bank and prevent erosion.
a neighbor takes round ones for a sweat lodge.
i build cairns to keep drug dealers and pee-ers from using my pullout.
i stonehenge massive ones that i can only push with the tractor bucket on top of rock outcroppings in my hay field so i don't run over the outcroppings that hide in the tall grass.
i will find a use for a gabion and make one soon https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QFjEWnA3Mtc
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Jocelyn Campbell
master steward
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Location: Missoula, MT
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Erika Rogalski wrote:We recently pulled up all the pavers in our backyard and found we had a lovely habitat for this little salamander! The pavers as a path weren't working, just creating what I call weed holes. We relocated the pavers to create an obstacle course for an RC truck, and relocated our new friend as well.


Welcome to the forums, Erika! What a great first post (we love lots of pictures!) and example of how rocks can be excellent beneficial critter habitat!

 
Davin Hoyt
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I was thinking about cracks in large rock faces recently.... and did an illustration but didn't know where to place it until today's dailyish email.
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This is two dimensional.
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This is three dimensional.
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Between these buildings I witnessed heavy air flow which generated the previous illustractions/study basis.
 
Hans Quistorff
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Location: Longbranch, WA
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Here is the strawberry wall. I fixed the weedin cart but wife has not got to it yet.
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Close up of one crevis with strawberries
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still in progress with weeding cart
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Started with this huge blue stone now with neclase of blackberies
 
Michelle Bisson
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Location: Quebec, Canada
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We are using lots of rocks to line the slope of the ditch to prevent the slope from collapsing. We also have started building a hugel culture bed.
 
Tracy Wandling
steward
Posts: 1650
Location: Cortes Island, British Columbia. Zone: 8ish Lat: 50; Rainfall: 50" ish; sand and rocks; well water
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Woohoo! We made the daily-ish! 'Cause . . . we rock.

Erika: That salamander is one crazy weird lookin' critter. Very cool. I keep hoping for newts, but haven't seen one in my rock pile yet.

m louks: Great! There are lots of good ideas in there. Love the stairway to the creek idea.

Davin: I have absolutely no idea what that means - but awesome diagram! lol

Hans: Love it. I was just scoping out some strawberry cracks in the rocks today! Your rock walls look great.

Michelle: Great use for all those rocks. Make sure you cover up that wood in the hugel so it doesn't dry out! (Wish I had a creek . . . )

Great stuff everyone. Love seeing photos of your little slices of paradise.

Here are a couple of photos of the foundation and chimney from the old house site. It's in our front field, and has a lot of big rocks around it. We're still pondering how to use this area. It looks really cool with all the cement and big rocks - kind of like an old ruin, all mossy and stuff. Right now that's where the fire pit is. I'm hoping to set up the outdoor kitchen near there - maybe under the shade of the maple that's growing out of one part of the foundation. Lots of potential there.

I'll get some pics of the rock wall for the Mediterranean garden I'm building tomorrow hopefully, if it doesn't rain all day. mmmmm . . . rain. So nice.



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Tom Wootton
Posts: 9
Location: North Florida near Hart Springs zone 8b
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This isn't rocks, it's chunks of concrete slab, but it's what I had (found actually, dumped along a dirt road near our house.)
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Keyhole bed
 
Hans Quistorff
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Here are a couple of photos of the foundation and chimney from the old house site. It's in our front field, and has a lot of big rocks around it. We're still pondering how to use this area. It looks really cool with all the cement and big rocks - kind of like an old ruin, all mossy and stuff. Right now that's where the fire pit is. I'm hoping to set up the outdoor kitchen near there - maybe under the shade of the maple that's growing out of one part of the foundation. Lots of potential there.

I suggest making a rock wall parallel to the cement foundation and fill it with compost and sand. Then you could plant things that are handy to spice things up wen you are cooking in your outdoor kitchen. Peas will produce longer into the summer if they are planted under the shade of the tree but be sure to put down a root barrier before you fill that section of the planter.
.
If you can pick up a wood cooking range stove top you could build a rocket cook stove attached to the chimney. Should make a fine entertainment garden room.
 
Tracy Wandling
steward
Posts: 1650
Location: Cortes Island, British Columbia. Zone: 8ish Lat: 50; Rainfall: 50" ish; sand and rocks; well water
320
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Tom: Well, they are definitely rock-like things, and a great use for a thrown away resource. Looks great!

Hans: Fabulous idea! A kitchen garden for the outdoor kitchen. Will discuss that with The Man!

~

And here is my little wall for my Mediterranean garden - just piling up the rocks that come out of the sand as I build the bed. And a little rock balancing act.

Oh, and a painting I did of rocks.

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Mediterranean garden rock wall.
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Watercolor painting of pebbles at the beach.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Lovely rocks!
 
Tracy Wandling
steward
Posts: 1650
Location: Cortes Island, British Columbia. Zone: 8ish Lat: 50; Rainfall: 50" ish; sand and rocks; well water
320
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Thanks, Tyler. I do a lot of these rock paintings. I just love all the colors and variations. Yummy.
 
Tracy Wandling
steward
Posts: 1650
Location: Cortes Island, British Columbia. Zone: 8ish Lat: 50; Rainfall: 50" ish; sand and rocks; well water
320
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I just wanted to thank everyone for playing. I won a book! How much fun is THAT! Maybe you could borrow it when I'm done reading it.

Thanks again! And let's keep adding our rock work images and ideas here. Some may find it useful or inspiring someday.

Cheers
Tracy
 
Laura Johnson
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I keep digging up small rocks in the garden. Put them to good use on the outside uprights of my recycled greenhouse. Also adds some thermo mass.
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Greenhouse with small field rocks.
 
Rick Valley
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Tracy;
I have a piece of white granite from Cortes, which is a perfect stepping stone. I hauled it up from a beach on the south end. I build with rock for clients- less embodied energy than concrete. I look for rock constantly; I showed one workshop participant what I was looking at: flint chips at a certain soil horizon opened by the passage of a bulldozer, and following the line I had been looking at, he picked up a perfect flint atlatl dart point. I'm now planning to build a structure in a stream- sort of a long basket of geo-grid poly mesh filled with sandstone rocks and holding some riparian shrubberies (Pacific Ninebark, Pacific Willow) to grow and stabilize it all. The shape will create a turbulence that will prompt the resident beaver family to build a dam on it. Rock ON!
 
Josephine Howland
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Location: White Mountains of New Hampshire zone 5
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Kate Muller wrote:I live in the Granite State. NH in general is full of rocks. We are currently collecting all the rocks we dig up gardening to line our garden pond with. We have super sandy soil and we will be getting a liner for our garden pond that will not seal on it's own. The rocks will hold the liner in place and create habitat for whatever moves into the pond.

I have friends that have used larges roc, ks for creating terraces.

Stone walls are everywhere here in NH. Most of them are made with rounded rocks due to the large number of them dropped here when the last glaciers left.

We have a few larger rocks staged in the garden as seating.


I am also in the granite state, but I have no rocks, as in unless someone is generous and brings me rocks or I find some sitting lonesome and bring it home. One person clearing for our homesite, said I had the strangest land, he said you have no rocks, none at all. It is because we are on top of an aquifer. So there is this giant lake under our property, so the heavy rocks have all sunk down to the bottom of the giant underground lake. Strange to be rockless in the Granite State. Then I married a rockhound (gem collector) and now we have crystal rocks to add to the lonesome rocks that we have adopted. Feel free to send your lonesome rocks to us.
 
Johanna Sol
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We are rockhounds so bring home all sorts of rocks - the ones that don't end up in the house become "working rocks" in the garden -
we've used them to outline beds, hold down netting and mulches, and they also serve as decoration when nothing's growing. The area with
the design using landscape rock someone gave us free for the hauling was to cover up a patch we do not irrigate that only held unsightly
plants - since then it has become an amazing mulched area where all sorts of volunteer plants arise - I simply pull out the ones I don't want
and leave the rest - it changes every year. The bigger, colorful rocks are the first things to appear when the snow melts.
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Working rocks in the front yard
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Keeping mulch from blowing away
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How I used colored landscaping rocks
 
Rick Valley
Posts: 101
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So what I enjoy doing best is steps and terrace walls; typically I use quarry stones that I select from. I use different grades, paying more for stones that have been carefully split, which is the sort of thing I'll use for stairs. Here in W. Oregon, all the sedimentary rock is young, soft and useless (ol' geezer voice over: "yep, those young'uns are!") so the rocks for building are volcanic, mostly andesite, fine-grained, hard and not bubbly. What I do for myself, or anyone who is willing to pay a bit more, and/or work with me (OSHA, I didn't say that) is mix up a fertile "mortar" of crushed rock, peat, and compost, and put that between the rocks, and in any space big enough I plant Sedums and other native rock plants, strawberries, Penstemons (humming bird's fave flowers) Makes an edible wall. I love putting curves in and creating conversation niches by making sure the top course has good "butt rocks" (not the same as "Butt Rockers") for sitting on. For me, a stepping stone path is with real flat rocks with slightly rounded edges, set in a sand bed with tops in one plane and a fertile mix as above between the stones and shy enough of the top plane that there's room for creeping thyme and things of that growth habit between the stones. That means stones which are 3' thick or so, and heavy enough that they don't jiggle about. I have a walk about to happen again- some of the stones are from great distances and I've used them before other places- and that piece of granite from Cortes Is. is one of them. Another is a piece of Precambrian white marble from Death Valley. I'll see if I can hunt down some pictures to show y'all.
 
Tracy Wandling
steward
Posts: 1650
Location: Cortes Island, British Columbia. Zone: 8ish Lat: 50; Rainfall: 50" ish; sand and rocks; well water
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Laura! How cool is THAT?! How are you attaching the rocks? It’s beautiful.

Rick; Ahhh, a rock from Cortes - it must be magical if it’s from here. Cool idea about the structure in the stream. Pop up a photo when you get it done, so we can see how it works.

Josephine: Another sad tale from the poor rockless souls of the planet. And it’s a double insult to live in the Granite State, and be rock-poor! But you are doing a good thing, adopting the strays and orphans of the rock world.

Johanna: I always loved the term ‘rockhounds’ - sounds so adventurous. My grandparents were rockhounds, and always had pretty rocks to give us when we went to visit. Maybe that’s where I developed my love of rocks - I still have a couple of them, 40 years later. Nice use of rocks - and I love that colored rock pattern. Cool idea.

And Rick, again: I would LOVE to see photos of your rock work. I’m a big fan of growing things between rocks, so I like the rock/peat/compost mix - great idea (although, I would probably use coir). PHOTOS PLEASE! I wanna see!
 
Hans Quistorff
pollinator
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Location: Longbranch, WA
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I took this picture for a couple that were pouring a slab for the entrance to there cabin. Just to show what you can get decades later when the slab gets pried up to reveal the rocks that were put in the bottom of the form to take up space and save on cement.
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Karen Donnachaidh
pollinator
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Location: Virginia (zone 7)
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Don't mean to hijack but there are "rock hounds" among us.
I found this rock in the gravel road in front of the house. The gravel source, I believe, is in Blue Ridge, VA.
I took a couple of pics. It's an inch by inch and a half, baby blue, vitreous, translucent, obsidian like. Any ideas?
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Linda Secker
Posts: 87
Location: Lancaster, UK
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Love rocks too

I use mine for holding things down and to fill the drainage ditches I dug years ago and kept falling into!!

Now that I've seen your pictures though, i am on a mission.... my neighbours have lots of rocks.... when I've finished the drainage project I will start a thermal mass bed for garlic, then start a bed edging project in my forest garden, then might just have to have a play with balanced rock sculpture.....
 
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