Best Way To Remove Rocks From Yard & Soil

Are you looking for a quick way to remove rocks from soil?

Whether you are trying to remove annoying rocks from your garden beds, or larger stones from around your yard, this guide shows you the best way to remove rocks from soil.

Inside, I detail if rocks are good in soil, tools to remove them, and the best way to separate them from the dirt and remove them from your yard.

Once you know the basics of rock removal, you can tackle the issue with confidence!

Are Rocks Good For Soil?

Rocks are everywhere, and they do provide some benefits for the soil.

Farmer Touching Rocks In Soil

Rocks, especially near the soil surface, help reduce erosion from wind and rain. Large boulders also assist in keeping hills and berms in place.

Depending on the concentration of rocks in the soil, they can help regulate soil temperature by soaking up daytime heat and releasing it at night.

In places where soil drainage is a problem, incorporating rocks can be an inexpensive, permanent solution.

Related | How To Firm Up Muddy Ground

In some regions of the country, rock mulch is very common. While stone mulch can add a decorative touch and is low maintenance, it can cause issues such as:

  • Raise soil temperature, so plants need more water
  • Reduces a plants ability to spread
  • Changes soil pH to alkaline which many shrubs and trees dislike
  • Hard to remove, change, or weed between

I find that large rocks make wonderful borders for planter beds but can tear up a lawnmower blade when you hit one pushing up from the surface of your yard.

In the garden, smaller pebbles or gravel that mix with the soil create zero issues and aid in drainage and aeration.

Rocks larger than pebbles get stuck in gardening tools, deter root growth, and cause other aggravating problems, so removing them is necessary.

Hand Tools For Removing Rocks

There is a wide variety of hand and power tools available to remove both small and massive rocks from the soil, with the most common options below.

Steel Lawn Rake

The steel tines on this type of lawn rake are tough and close enough together to remove troublesome size rocks from soil.

The wide head enables you to gather up rocks near the soil surface, but the tines are not long enough to penetrate more than a few inches.

Rock Screening Rake

Rock screening rakes feature a broad head and less space between tines, so removing (or moving) smaller rocks from the soil is efficient.

Rock Sifting Shovel

For areas where the soil is relatively loose, this rock sifting shovel is unique in that it can scoop and separate rocks in one motion.

The holes in the blade allow the soil to fall through, leaving the rocks inside for easy removal.

Related | Best Garden Shovels

Landscaping Crow/Pry Bar

When large rocks pose a problem, a landscaping crowbar is a tool you need to pry up stones from the soil safely. The steel shaft eliminates the worry of the tool snapping apart as you are working to remove heavy stones.

Machines To Remove Rocks From Soil

Lawn Tractor Attachments

You can rent or purchase attachments for your lawn tractor that can assist in removing rocks from the soil without physical strain.

These raking tools attach to your tractor and drag across the soil surface as you drive, gathering up rocks in front of the metal tines.

There are also ATV or UTV rock raking attachments and hauling buckets.

For huge quantities or hefty boulders, the only way to handle removal is to go with skidsteer equipment.

Bucket Attachments

A skid-steer tractor with a bucket can scoop up rocky sections of your yard, which enables you to pull out offending rocks down to several feet. Carry the rocks out of the area in the tractor bucket.

Grapple Attachment

A claw attachment can dig out surface boulders and carry them to the location of your choice safely.

Tractor sale or rental facilities can assist you in finding just the right attachment to handle your specific rock removal project.

How To Separate Rocks From Dirt

Separating rocks from dirt doesn’t have to be a backbreaking chore when you use the right methods.

For retaining as much soil from a rocky area of your lawn, a sifting screen is the way to go.

Soil Screening Tray

A screening tray is a very effective way to remove rocks from soil, even if you need to work alone. I built a tray after watching this video to clear larger stones out of a new garden bed area.

A manual sifter screening tray requires a bit of effort, but the results are worth it. If you have another person, you can work the tray directly over the area you want the soil to remain, then dump out the rocks into a waiting wheelbarrow.

A sifting screen set at an angle allows you to toss a shovelful of rocky soil onto the mesh and let gravity do the work of separating the materials for you.

Angled Screen Removing Rocks From Soil

This picture demonstrates how to use an angled soil sifter.

You can build or purchase an electric-powered sifter, which will increase the amount of soil you can process if your rock-clearing job is extensive.

The size of the holes in the metal mesh material will determine the size of rocks it separates from the soil. You can buy mesh of various sizes, or recycle a section of chainlink fencing to attach to your wooden frame.

Best Way To Remove Rocks From Your Yard

The best way to remove rocks from your yard is to formulate a plan based on the type and size of rocks you need to remove.

Related | How To Clear Brush

For overall surface removal of smaller-size stones, run over the area with a rototiller to break up soil clumps and reveal the rock.

Rent or purchase a rototiller with ample space between big teeth, which allows bigger rocks to pop up without getting jammed in the equipment.

Once you have a section of yard tilled, rake or sift the loose soil to remove the rock.

Related | Cultivator vs Tiller

For random football-size rocks that push their way up to the surface after the winter season, a landscaping pry bar can pop them from the soil with little effort.

For boulders or ample amounts of sizeable rocks, it’s best to rely on machinery to handle most of the workload. Tractors and suitable attachments can safely dig up and transport stones from your yard that are too heavy to move manually.

In Summary

What’s the best way to remove rocks from soil? By using the method that produces the fastest results with the least amount of stress on your body and wallet.

I hope you take the information in this guide and formulate a plan to remove the unwanted rocks from your yard quickly. Once those annoying rocks are gone, you can spend your time doing much more enjoyable activities!

About Justin Micheal

Justin has always loved gardening and caring for the outdoor spaces in his grandmother's backyard. He believes everyone can enjoy the space available to them, no matter how big or small. On Backyard Digs, he shares everything he's learned about growing a successful garden and maintaining and improving the landscape of a backyard.