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My house is surrounded by rocks (wraps all the way around the house and in places is 10 feet wide) that my father-in-law put in 20+ years ago, way before my wife and I bought his house. Those rocks grow lots and lots of weeds and the reason they grow lots and lots of weeds is because there is a lot of dirt in the rocks.

There is black plastic underneath the rocks, but I'd imagine that either, much of it is damaged, or enough organic material decomposed on top of the rocks to give everything a nice layer of sediment in which to grow weeds (and there are lots of bushes that were ripped out without ever repairing the plastic.

So, this isn't really back breaking labor since it's impossible to shovel these rocks in any meaningful way, it just takes me a million years to sit and sift out the dirt and replace the plastic.

What's the easiest way to repair (remove the dirt and weeds) rock garden landscaping so it's good for another 10-15 years or so?

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Peter, could you add pictures so that we can see what exactly it is that you're dealing with? There isn't no one fix works for all for rock-gardens... the advice might vary depending on the situation. – Lorem Ipsum Sep 22 '11 at 20:08
@PeterTurner Can you please post a photo, so we can get an idea of the scale of this rock garden? Do you want to remove just the weeds, or the weeds + the "layer of sediment"? – Mike Perry Sep 22 '11 at 20:10
OK, but no pics till this weekend (the sun's going down too quick for me to get a good pic in the PM) Suffice it to say, I want to de-dirtify my rocks. That'll take care of the weed problem. – Peter Turner Sep 22 '11 at 20:13
@PeterTurner It might not be quite that easy, especially if weeds are coming up through the "black plastic" barrier. Without seeing how big the rock garden is, is it too big to dismantle, then build anew? Do you want a "permanent" fix or a fix that will give you a few "weed free" years (at best)? – Mike Perry Sep 22 '11 at 20:16
@Mike yeah, that's great thanks. I've been meaning to ask this question about as long as I've been meaning to accomplish this task! – Peter Turner Sep 22 '11 at 21:46

One option is to get a powerful jet washer and just blast water through the gaps to loosen the dirt. You can easily get these for rental at your local rental store.

You might have to do a little bit of rearranging prior to hosing them (to make the gaps wider) and provide a path for the water+dirt mix to flow out.

Once you get the dirt out of the way, you can get some fine gravel and pour it through the gaps, spreading it with a small stick (poke through the gaps) under the rocks, so that it will help suppress weed growth.

It'll be easier to refine this advice when I see a pic of the rock garden. However, do note that there is no easy way out. You will have to undertake some manual labour to get it done.

Please take caution: The water pressure is extremely high and could injure humans if directed at them at close range. You've also got to be careful that you don't spray on any plants that you do want to keep, as the pressure could blow them to bits. If you do take care of these, I think it really is a good option, as it certainly does leave your rocks looking spankin' new.

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That's a good idea, especially since it would actually make it look good. I replaced about 20 feet of edging (over the course of 6 weeks) this summer and it was an awful task which left everything very dirty. – Peter Turner Sep 22 '11 at 20:21
Sounds like it would be worth a shot. Don't ask for "gravel" though, you'd be better off with 1/4" washed pea stone. Gravel could bring along a lot of sand and/or silt that will undo all of your pressure washing work. – bstpierre Sep 23 '11 at 13:38

Alternatively you might try throwing buckwheat seeds into the dirt areas between the rocks. The buckwheat grows quickly and is easy to pull out. This might loosen up the soil between the rocks a bit. I had some success with this when removing deep sediments from cracked concrete. This might be a good idea if you want to keep the dirt to turn it into a planned rock garden, instead of removing the dirt from the rocks completely.

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I recently found out about weed torches. They won't get rid of the dirt, but they should make quick work of weeding around rocks and hardscaped areas (that won't catch fire, of course).

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To effectively clean out a "drip edge" such as this and bring it back to it's original state, the best bet may be simply to start again.

If you save the stone you can wash/sift them off and save a ton of money. But prep the bed again, place some decent metal edging as a barrier between the stones and the garden, and begin refilling the hole.

Often times this is actually less work in the long run than trying to pick and pull at weeds over the years. using a decent weed barrier between the soil and rock is a good idea to help, but it really is only a starting point. Weeds grow from the ground up....AND from the air down. Seedlings fall and germinate and then seek the soil out... as well as start from the soil and seek the sun.

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