Easy DIY Landscaping: Build a Rock Garden

Updated on May 9, 2019
Enelle Lamb profile image

Enelle Lamb ancestors were English gardeners and professional landscapers. Her artistic nature is a great accent for home DIY projects.

My DIY Rock Garden
My DIY Rock Garden | Source

Professional Results for DIY Prices

Many homeowners are taking on the challenge of renovating their 'home sweet home' themselves, and I'm one of them! Not only do DIYers have the satisfaction of saying "I did that!", but they are also adding value to their property and in most cases, saving money!

One way to add value and save, without having to invest a lot of time and money 'tooling up' (buying or renting the right tools for the job,) is by landscaping. Most homeowners already have shovels, rakes and edgers, so all that is needed is an idea, time, labor and, of course, the right products—topsoil, bark mulch, and plants.

This type of project can give you professional results without the professional price tag. Once you have your idea set the way you want it, the actual project will take approximately two days from beginning to end.

This particular project took us a weekend to complete. The first day was spent on the basic construction and placement of boulders and rocks, and the second day we readied the soil for planting, added the plants, lights and bark mulch. It was a lot of hard work, but we enjoyed every minute of it and were thrilled with the results of our labor!


The Idea: A Rock Garden

For our first big DIY project, we decided to spruce up the front yard with a rock garden. Having watched a year's worth of DIY shows, we were fairly confident that we could produce a professional looking garden at a fraction of the cost. For those of you who are delving into this type of project for the first time, the steps below will help you to achieve the same results we are enjoying!

Step 1: Decide on a Location and Mark It!

Once you have decided what you want and where you want it, you need to mark it out on the ground before you dig. This way you can adjust the size, shape and position of your soon-to-be-finished garden. You can do this by simply laying a cable or string in the shape and position you want, or using spray paint to mark out the perimeter.

Removing the Sod for Our Rock Garden
Removing the Sod for Our Rock Garden | Source
Removing the Sod for Our Rock Garden
Removing the Sod for Our Rock Garden | Source

Step 2: Remove Sod

When you are happy with the positioning and shape, etc., the second step is to remove the sod. Using an edger or flat shovel, 'skim' the top layer of grass off the section you have marked out, being sure not to go too deep. You only want to remove approximately 2–3 inches.

Use the edger to first cut around the perimeter. The edger will give a clean, smooth edge, as well as only bite 3 inches deep—the perfect depth for removing the sod.

Placing Rocks in My Garden
Placing Rocks in My Garden | Source

Step 3: Install Your Rocks

Because we were building a 'rock' garden, rather than a flower bed, we had to plan where we wanted the rocks placed before we did anything else. When you are moving a ton of rock, you don't want to be relocating them. This is not the same as moving a couch because it "looks better here!" Once these rocks are placed, they are permanent fixtures, (unless you happen to be Bruce Banner!), so make sure you know exactly where you want them.

You will have more leeway with some of the smaller pieces so you can fill in spots or adjust them to your artistic tastes, however, the larger rocks won't be moving any time soon, so again, make sure you know where you want them before you put them in.

You can start with the smaller rocks first so that you can have an idea where the larger ones will fit. We started at the front of the bed, with the flatter, smaller pieces. Once we had those placed, we decided how and where the larger ones would be put. Because we had some very large, and very heavy boulders, we decided they should go at the back so all the rocks would be seen from the street.

We were able to make minor adjustments to the larger boulders (mere inches only), but we had to decide which side would face the street, and what angle, etc. they would look best before we muscled them into place.

Installing Edging in Our Rock Garden
Installing Edging in Our Rock Garden | Source

Step 4: Install Edging

The next step we took was to install an edging material. This keeps the shape of the garden and prevents the grass from growing back over the edge, and keeps the edge looking sharp and clean for years. Nothing says "unprofessional" quicker than blurred or un-kept edges.

Another reason for using an edging material is to keep the top soil and bark mulch in the garden. Once the neighbourhood animals (not to mention your own,) discover this new territory, keeping the bark mulch intact can be a chore

Installing Edging in Our Rock Garden
Installing Edging in Our Rock Garden | Source
Finished Edging in Our Rock Garden
Finished Edging in Our Rock Garden | Source

Step 5: Prepare for Planting

Once you have the edging material in place, it's time to loosen the soil in preparation of planting. This can be a labor-intensive part of the project, as the dirt has been compacted for several years. We used one of those garden claws that are advertised on TV; it worked, but it wasn't easy!

After you have loosened the soil and removed the larger rocks that you have unearthed, you will need to add top soil for the new plants. This also helps to anchor the rocks and make the garden look like it 'grew' that way naturally.

You can see the difference between the top photo on the right, to the bottom photo. The top soil fills in the bed and levels out any hills and valleys as well as raises the level of the bed to the rest of the grass. You don't want a sunken garden! The water needs to drain away, and if the garden is below the level of the rest of your lawn, the water will pool and you will lose all the plants you have just lovingly planted.

Our Rock Garden Before Mulching
Our Rock Garden Before Mulching | Source

Step 6: Choose Your Fauna

Now you're ready to plant, but don't just throw any old thing in there. The plants, like the rocks, need some kind of planning if the finished product is to look as good as you want it to.

Not saying that you have to go with the plants that we did, you might like roses, or peonies, or azalea bushes...whatever floats your boat! Just remember to place them where they will grow and look their best.

In our case, we wanted to showcase the rocks—after all, this was a rock garden! ...And it wasn't just any old rock that was used. We found some beautiful green boulders (not sure what kind they are,) with great shapes and our rock garden idea was born.

So, to continue, we chose tall, stand-alone plants for the back row to highlight the boulders, grasses for the sides and small annuals for the front. We placed the plants, still in their pots, around the edges of the rocks to see what looked good where before we dug any holes.

Our Rock Garden Before Mulching
Our Rock Garden Before Mulching | Source
Our Rock Garden Before Mulching
Our Rock Garden Before Mulching | Source

Step 7: Install Lighting

As I have mentioned previously, we watched approximately a year's worth of DIY shows before we started our project. So, naturally, we also saw some of the 'bling' that was installed by the hosts of these shows, and decided we were going to do this garden up right! (Nothing says "keeping up with the Jones' better than professional looking landscaping!)

Anyway...back to the 'bling'. We decided to wire the garden for lights—something seen in professional landscaping in higher-end neighbourhoods. We also installed the battery operated solar lights to add a bit of sparkle. As you can see from the pictures, we chose three lights, one regular spotlight for the tree, and two 'rock' look-a-likes to light the rocks and plants.

There are kits and individual sets available in most home improvement outlets, and the instructions are very easy to follow. When you have connected your lights to the power cord, simply bury the cord along the edging of the garden. If necessary, use your edger tool to cut through the sod outside the garden to bury the cord all the way to the outlet. This way all you will notice will be a beautifully lit garden, not the bright orange extension cords crisscrossing the yard!

P.S. Note the happy homeowner in the top right corner of the last picture!

Our Completed Rock Garden!
Our Completed Rock Garden! | Source
Our Completed Rock Garden!
Our Completed Rock Garden! | Source

Step 8: Add Mulch

...Almost done! All that's left to do once the planting is finished and the lighting has been wired, is to add the bark mulch.

Some people might question the use or necessity of bark mulch, asking "Isn't it a magnet for bugs and rodents?" Well, as for the bugs, it doesn't matter what product is used, as soon as you break the ground, you will notice an influx of beetles, worms, ants, spiders, well, you get my drift. To be honest, if you were to sit quietly in the grass and actually observe the nature beneath your feet, you would see that all of these insects are already there. The only reason you notice them now is because you are admiring your handiwork!

Unless you have an excess of garbage or leftovers lying around your yard, you won't have a rodent infestation either. You might, however, notice the neighbourhood cats and dogs are taking an interest in your new garden. There are products available to discourage their interest, unless you are like me and plant Catmint in your garden! (For the uninitiated, Catmint is actually the plant name for catnip! Live and learn...)

...But back to the bark mulch. Instead of laying sheets of landscaping fabric, newspapers or black plastic to slow the growth of weeds, you can use bark mulch. It works the same way, is pleasing to the eye, and is an ever-green product. It also helps with soil erosion and keeps the moisture from evaporating. The colors range from brown and black to various shades of red and green which adds a burst of color to your landscaping, and comes in a lot cheaper at the cash register!

I would like to say that now that you have added the bark mulch you are done, however, if you are anything like us, you will see another plant or statue or rock that you simply have to add! Or barring any additions, you notice something will look better here instead of there. Whatever the reason, it's always an adventure when the plants begin to bloom and grow. You might just find yourself in the check out line at your local nursery...again!

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2012 Enelle Lamb


Submit a Comment
  • ChristynaJohnson profile image

    Christina Johnson 

    7 years ago from Raymond, NH

    You are so right about D.Y.I. projects. I love them. Thanks for the indepth landscaping steps. I am in the process of mapping out the yard. We just bought our place in Feb. 2013 and everything was burried beneath the snow.

  • Enelle Lamb profile imageAUTHOR

    Enelle Lamb 

    7 years ago from Canada's 'California'

    Thank you Deb, it was a blast to do. Unfortunately, once you have been bitten by the DIY bug you don't want to stop! LOL

  • DeborahNeyens profile image

    Deborah Neyens 

    7 years ago from Iowa

    Your garden is beautiful! Thanks for sharing the how-to and wonderful pictures.

  • Enelle Lamb profile imageAUTHOR

    Enelle Lamb 

    7 years ago from Canada's 'California'

    Most welcome pstraubie48 - I really had a blast building the garden - it was a lot of hard work, but I enjoyed it none the less! Just remember that when you plant, make sure to allow enough room between them - the first year, everything looks neat and tidy, but when they start growing again next season, they are twice the size from when you first planted!

  • pstraubie48 profile image

    Patricia Scott 

    7 years ago from North Central Florida

    The directions and photographs you have given are so very helpful. I will be constructing a rock garden soon ---I have just bought the property and have several locations I am considering. Having this information will definitely help when construction begins. Thank you for sharing this


  • Enelle Lamb profile imageAUTHOR

    Enelle Lamb 

    8 years ago from Canada's 'California'

    Thanks so much missolive! It was a lot of hard work, but so much fun to do, if you can believe that LOL! The garden grew in twice as full this year and it's wonderful to see.

  • missolive profile image

    Marisa Hammond Olivares 

    8 years ago from Texas

    Beautiful job! The garden looks very nice and is a great focal point. The picture is what caught my eye. I'll be pinning this one for you on my garden board.

    Thanks for the details on getting this done.

  • Enelle Lamb profile imageAUTHOR

    Enelle Lamb 

    8 years ago from Canada's 'California'

    Thanks Suzie HQ :) it was fun - a lot of hard work, but very enjoyable and rewarding :D

  • Suzie HQ profile image

    Suzanne Ridgeway 

    8 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

    Great hub Enelle, so interesting and looked like it was fun to create! It has provided me with great ideas for trees we have at our place that I would like to do similar with.Look forward to reading more of your interesting titled hubs! Voted up, useful and interesting!

  • Enelle Lamb profile imageAUTHOR

    Enelle Lamb 

    8 years ago from Canada's 'California'

    Thanks Toolonline, I appreciate the compliment :D

  • Toolsonline profile image


    8 years ago from Up to my Neck in it!

    It looks great and very well detailed explanation..

  • Enelle Lamb profile imageAUTHOR

    Enelle Lamb 

    8 years ago from Canada's 'California'

    Thanks RedElf, we really enjoyed "building" it! I took a picture of the lights at night, but it didn't turn out very well. Will try for another ;)

    Thanks Susie, glad you enjoyed it.

  • SUSIE DUZY profile image


    8 years ago from Delray Beach, Florida

    You have some really good tips here. Thanks for sharing.

  • RedElf profile image


    8 years ago from Canada

    You did a very professional job, and I love the "process" photos - it's always so great to see in pictures how a project develops. Thanks for the step-by-step, as well. I't so easy to forget something in the 'heat of battle' :D Love the lights - look forward to seeing a snap of them at night.

  • jeyaramd profile image


    8 years ago from Mississauga, Ontario

    Thank you sharing this wonderful hub on landscaping. This would definitely have costed a lot to have done professionally. However, for a retaining wall; I would probably go with a professional. I appreciate your clear and concise step by step instructions. Also, planning your project by outlining the shape you desire is really smart. Preparation takes the most of our time. Your photos are beautiful as well. The finished rock garden is gorgeous. I would definitely try this out in the summer. Great hub. Voted up and useful.


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, dengarden.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://maven.io/company/pages/privacy

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)