The front yard of my northern New Mexico house (zone 7a) is horrible. It consists of rocks and dirt with Tribulus Terrestris weeds growing in the dirt and between the rocks. Below that is a layer of black plastic. Below that is more rocks and dirt, and finally more black plastic. Two layers of each! I have to assume that what happened was that multiple previous homeowners decided to start over by covering the existing yard with plastic and rocks, but then proceeded to neglect it and let weeds grow as dust and dirt got blown between the rocks.

I can't really grow much due to the multiple layers of plastic and rocks. There's practically no soil; just enough for Tribulus Terrestris weeds, apparently. By this point there are literally millions of their spiky seedpods between the rocks.

Digging through and removing enough of the rocks to plant anything is agonizingly difficult. And the whole yard looks awful. I'm considering hiring someone to remove the top three inches or so and just start over from scratch, and then planting some low-water-use groundcover like purslane or blue grama grass. Do I have any better options?


1 Answer 1


Pretty much, your best option is to remove all the layers of rock and landscape fabric, and rebuild from there. If you are willing to hire someone, that will save you a lot of trouble. The soil underneath is likely to be somewhat sterilized and will benefit greatly from the addition of well decomposed compost in a good layer. The more the better.

As for the Tribulus Terrestris, Solarization for a season, and then hoeing as they emerge for another season should get rid of most of what wasn't removed with the layers of junk.

For more information on the control of Tribulus Terrestris see:

What is a long-term solution to a goathead infestation?

  • My one worry is that my water main runs underneath the patch in the front that needs this work. I'm a little nervous that driving heavy machinery above it might crush the pipe.
    – iLikeDirt
    Dec 2, 2014 at 3:13
  • @iLikeDirt Are you in the united states?
    – J. Musser
    Dec 2, 2014 at 3:15
  • Yes. New Mexico. House built in 1972. All copper plumbing.
    – iLikeDirt
    Dec 2, 2014 at 3:19
  • 1
    Then call 811, and all the utility companies (electric, gas, tv, water, etc) will come for free and mark out where any underground lines are. You can mark out other things, like downspout pipes, dog wires, etc. Do this before the hired labor get there, so they can see where they should be careful.
    – J. Musser
    Dec 2, 2014 at 3:39
  • I already know where the pipe is; unfortunately, it would have to be driven over to access the yard, unless I feel like tearing down the fence.
    – iLikeDirt
    Dec 2, 2014 at 3:41

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