I grew up in Maine. The soil is not great, but will get you by, but the place is LOUSY with rocks. I spent a summer in New York a couple of years ago. The soil is better, but if you thought Maine was rotten with rocks, you aint seen nothing. I've been living in Florida over 10 years now, and fully appreciate soil without rocks.
Over at the Great Gardening Tool thread, Dave Bennett shows us a handy tool that lets the user work soil which contains an abundance of rocks. Handy thing, that.
Up north, getting rocks out of the way of progress is an endless chore. Clear a field this year, frost heave pushes more up next year. At my grandmothers blueberry field, we were allowed to spend as much time as we wanted picking up rocks, had a few piles of them here and there. If the effort was put in to the project, a fine fence line can be built with all these rocks. These fences last for centuries. As an example:
I'm curious as to rock problems you folks have experienced. What do you use to work them, what methods are employed in moving them, and what you have done or seen done?
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My garden is full of rocks. I'd been removing them with pick and shovel and replacing with logs for hugelkultur but it was getting me down so I asked my husband to rent a backhoe to dig them out. So I'm looking forward to that!
Some of the rocks have been placed on the downhill side of the kitchen garden:
Others are being used to make erosion control berms in other parts of the yard. Some I hope to use to build a well house. The flat ones I use for paths and edging.
Ken Peavey wrote:If the effort was put in to the project, a fine fence line can be built with all these rocks. These fences last for centuries. As an example:
An abundance of rocks in fields have been used in the UK for centuries in dry-stone walls as a form of stock enclosure making use of the materials to hand (rock). Many typical images of regions of the UK are defined by networks of these walls and many regional variations in style/technique have developed over the years. Some fields are so ridden with rocks that massive container walls have been built to use them up; an example I've seen on the West coast of Wales was at least 250' long, 10' wide and 6-7' high, completely filled with sea-rounded rocks. I wish I had a picture of the container wall but this picture of a (rather amateurish) wall I helped to rebuild will have to do. It follows a field boundary which is related to a nearby Bronze age settlement indicating that the wall could have been in existence in various guises for over 3000 years.
The wall was built by hand using stone from a collapsed wall following the same line, and additional stone from the field. The foundations were massive stones that required the use of prying bars to move/realign. A small JCB was used to move and lift the large stones that made up the gateway between two fields.
In terms of permaculture, I imagine that excess field stone can be used to create thermal mass for greenhouses/polytunnels, terraces, paths, and sun traps etc.
"A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in."
I have tons of rocks. Lots of old stone fences around us as well, at least 300 years old.
We use rocks a lot for retaining walls and drainage tranches. They also work well for holding things down and terracing.
The number one tool for moving long stones is a pig's snout. Our sows move LARGE stones all the time, and they make it look easy. They are actually very good at making terraces and leveling an area. Most of the stones naturally progress to the downhill side of the pig terraces.
In a time before every farmer and a front end loader my dad used to plant a combination of potatoes and Jerusalem artichokes on rocky ground that he wanted to clear. This area was fenced until the crop ripened and then pigs were allowed to forage. Huge amounts of labor were saved because the rocks were all pushed to the surface and the pigs were happy to do it. This works on smaller stumps as well.
Hurray for pigs! I don't have pigs, but I do have rocks. Big round smooth river rocks everywhere.
I use them for foundations and drywalls. The latest batch I will use for a retainer wall (with some cement) for a raised bed. Some others for a rock garden/herb spiral.
The smaller ones can be used as mulch. They keep moisture really well.
A bigger rock next to a heat loving plant will absorb warmth during the day and give it off during the cooler hours, allowing one to grow stuff that is limit or risky for your area. For me that's eggplants.
Flat ones I place under melons or pumpkins so they don't rot and ripen faster. If the rock is too big, they might get cooked instead of ripened, depends how hot the sun shines...
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