Should I Remove Stones from the Soil?


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You may notice an increase in rocks in your garden year after year.

As the water below the surface freezes and expands, it pushes the rocks to the surface slowly.

This may have you wondering if you should remove stones from the soil?

Yes, you should remove stones from your soil. Stones do not add any benefit to your soil, and the harm they cause outweigh any reason to keep them. Cuts and scratches to your hands, broken gardening equipment, and dying plants are at risk when you keep stones in the soil. 

Why You Should Remove Rocks

Ultimately, the decision to remove the rocks is up to you, but here are a few reasons why you should remove them. 

Stones in the soil solution and tips
Stones in the soil

They are taking up valuable space.

They take up space that roots could grow into, they take up space that air and water can penetrate in the soil, and they take up space that worms and other organisms can move through. 

Rocks in your soil can be hazardous to yourself and your gardening equipment.

You can very easily cut your hands on tray rocks when working in your garden and you can also dent, bend, or break hand tools while working.

The same applies to more expensive equipment like a lawnmower, too!

With too many rocks on or near the surface of your garden, your soil is at risk of becoming compacted.

Key Takeaway: The compaction from the weight of the rocks will leave no space for air or water that your plants need. 

How Can You Remove Rocks

Luckily there are many ways to remove stones from your soil. 

Small-Medium Sized Rocks

These methods are intended for rocks no bigger than the size of your hand.

This is meant for smaller, lighter rocks that can easily be picked up without the help of machines. 

  • Handpick: If you don’t have too many stones in your garden, pick them out as you see them. Setting aside some time in the spring each year to pick out any rocks that surfaced is a great way to start your growing season. Wear gardening gloves or cut-resistant gloves when using this method to avoid injuries.
  • Rototiller and a Rake: Use a rototiller to loosen the soil where you have noticed a bunch of stones. Then using a garden rake, pull the stones out of the loosened dirt into a pile. 
  • Sieve: You can either buy or DIY a sieve. Check out this video to build your own using lumber and hardware cloth. Once you have your sieve, you can place it on top of a wheelbarrow, or an A-frame stand. Shovel the dirt into your sieve, and shake it to sort the rocks from the soil.

We strongly recommend watching this helpful short video


These methods are for rocks that the average gardener wouldn’t be able to lift without assistance. 

  • Feathers and wedges: This is a cool way of splitting large rocks into smaller, more manageable pieces. It takes a long time, but it’s easy enough to do. Here is a cool video of how to set up the feathers and wedges, and how it splits a big boulder in half.

We strongly recommend watching this helpful short video

  • Chain and a truck: Another option is to dig around a boulder until you can wrap a chain or harness around it, and attach it to a truck or a tractor. Not everyone has access to a truck or tractor, and we aren’t recommending buying one just to remove a boulder from your garden. 
  • Call the specialists: Instead of buying a truck, or putting in the effort of removing stones and boulders yourself, call the experts. Many landscaping companies have the knowledge and tools needed to remove the stones for you, and in some cases, this is going to be the easiest option. 

What to Do with Stones

Now that you’ve removed all those stones from the soil, what should you do with them?

Remove rocks from the soil
Remove rocks from soil

Here’s a list of different ways to use those stones.

  • Have a company remove them
  • Line your driveway or edge your gardens with them to add to your landscaping
  • Create a firepit
  • Fill potholes in your driveway
  • Add them to the bottom of potted plants to add drainage
  • Wash them and use them for art
    • Paint them
    • Create sculptures
    • Glue them to a non-slip mat and create a pebble bath mat
    • Create candle holders with them

Final Thoughts

So the choice is yours! You can choose to leave the stones where they are if you aren’t a fan of gardening, or if you don’t have the time to remove them. 

If gardening is a passion of yours, and you want to give your plants the best care you can give them, then we highly suggest removing the stones from your soil.

Just be careful when you do it to protect yourself and your plants! 

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