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Is it ok to have small rocks in my garden??  RSS feed

 
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I'm new to gardening and nearly done tilling my 15 by 15 garden. I live in the southern US in an area that has great soil for growing most crops. In this space I dug up(one foot down) there are a lot of rocks an I mean a lot! I threw out most of the bigs ones that are a tiny bit bigger than my palm and I left a lot of the smaller ones in. Would it be ok to leave a good amount of these rocks in the soil or would it effect the growing of crops I plan to plant? I've heard the rocks effect the drainage ability but I'm not really sure. Also I have a bunch of cut up roots from the grass thats still in the soil from when I seperated the top soil from the roots. Would it be ok to leave some of those in as well and just pull up and grass that starts to grow? I'm a beginner and need all the help I can receive. Thanks.
 
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I always wonder about that too.  It will be interesting to hear what people have to say.  I suspect that what you're growing might affect how much rocks you need to remove.   Carrots vs lettuce etc.   And how much fertility is in the rest of the soil.  And how much rain you get.  And how obsessive you are.

the Red Gardens you tube guy is doing multiple gardening styles side by side to compare things like bed preparation.  He actually does the math and comes up with kg of produce per square meter per hour of labor for no dig vs extensive bed prep.   (and then translates it to feet and pounds for US people).

 
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Rocks are minerals, minerals are what a lot of bacteria eat and thus provide to the plants that send their requests for minerals to the bacteria.
So to take out all the rocks would be a bad thing.
I like to leave most of the 2" and smaller rocks in the garden soil since they do several good things for soil, such as give pockets for microorganisms to live, mineral(food) source, water infiltration pockets and so on.
Big rocks are more trouble for plants to maneuver around, so those should come out.

For root vegetables we want to take out most of those larger than 2" and replace with sand (finely ground minerals) so the roots can grow deeper and more nicely shaped.
You could take the time and remove almost every rock but that would be a lot of sand to add to the soil so the minerals were there for the microbiome.
One option would be to use containers to grow those root vegetables in so you would have a very good, rock free, sandy loam for them to grow like grocery store produce, looks wise.

I would just pull grass that was in the way and leave the rest, just clipping it short when it grew tall enough to be a bother to my plants.
Soil that is covered by living ground covers (such as grasses) will stay cooler in the hot, baking sun than exposed soil.
Hot soil is a microbiome killer.

Redhawk
 
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We have lots of limestone rocks which I leave in the garden.  I don't think it effects drainage unless they are meshed together. 

When I come across big ones I take them out.  So far the plants that self seed every year find a spot to come up.

A use for the rocks that I did up:  borders, air-wells, and mulch

Don't put them over plants that you don't want since there will be condensation under the rock which will help the plant grow.

I put pieces of chert that I find around the plants that might need a little more water.  Looks kind of nice and gives the chert some usefulness.
 
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I throw any rocks that I notice over toward the driveway, most don't make it or go too far. Those that make it add to the gravel in the driveway and they improve the grasses ability to grow between the tire tracks and and adjacent to it. Over 30 years my garden soil is fairly nice, loamy clay. I have a strip that I dug 20 or so inches deep where I can grow carrots, long carrots, straight from not hitting any hardpan or those pesky rocks. It's my garden and I do it like I like it. I take some input from DW and then I make a decision. She never criticized my rock policy so I guess it stands as-is.
 
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Just do a simple test; on a warm sunny day grab a rock and turn it over. More than likely the top part of the rock is warm and dry, but underneath there is coolness and condensation from warm versus cold in the rock. That condensation is helping to not just warm your soil, but also lower the watering requirements too. Sure, a person needs enough soil between the rocks for the sown seed to take root, but rocks have a lot of benefit in the soil.

A lot of people remove all the rocks in their garden and wonder why they have to water more and use more fertilizer.

Here in New England we are known for our rock walls and rock picking, but when I see that going on in fields, I wonder why instead of building equipment that picks rocks from our fields mechanically, why we don't employ rock crushers that just make the rock smaller so that it benefits the fields instead?
 
Bryant RedHawk
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hau Anne, I am envious that you have chert, that is one of the best rocks for Knapping arrow heads and other tools from.

Limestone stacked walls can be gorgeous when finished.
The types of rocks you find in your soil usually indicates what your bed rock consists of.

Redhawk
 
Anne Miller
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I am a big fan of all kind of rocks.  I am just learning what minerals rocks can provide. My limestone furnishes calcium.  Mineral calcite which came from the beds of evaporated seas and lakes and from sea animal shells.

It helps to get to know what kind of rock you have.



 
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If it's an aggressive, clumping grass then it'll come back quickly from the roots left in the ground.  I have a grass I've been trying to get rid of that will grow back from root pieces through 6 inches of mulch with no problem.  The only way I've been able to kill it is digging it out as much as possible then smothering with cardboard/mulch/pavers for a few weeks.  It just depends how you feel about the grass.  Ours is dense, difficult to remove, seeds itself everywhere and is a heavy feeder, so I really don't like it.
 
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Rocks affect seed starting/spacing and root growth. So I throw out to the rock paths any I can grab.  That said, they are nutritious to plants, but the smaller the better because then you have lots of surface area for the minerals to leave the rock and none of the negative affects of being a heavy barrier the plant can't get around. My 2 cents.
 
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