I've got a section of yard with a considerable amount of landscaping rock (similar to https://texasgardenmaterials.com/product/river-rock-gravel/). It appears that many years ago someone had deliberately rocked the area as a landscaping choice. Unfortunately, the area has been neglected for many years. The rocks are embedded in the dirt. The area grows some grass, but mostly brush.

Ideally, I'd like to remove the rocks, add soil if needed, and return the area to being a lawn. I'm happy to rent equipment, but I don't even know what to look for. I could do it by hand with some kind of home-made sifter, but that sounds like doing things the hard way.

  • Before you even contemplate "sifting this by hand", be warned you will be handling a few tons of material per 100 square feet of area. If cost isn't an issue, I would just get rid of the top 6 inches of what you have, replace it with 6 inches of decent quality soil, and make a new lawn. Unless you like playing with expensive machinery, get a contractor to do it.
    – alephzero
    May 29, 2020 at 22:37
  • @alephzero no answers in comments, please!
    – Stephie
    May 30, 2020 at 10:46

2 Answers 2


I took some time researching a very similar job - which in the end I didn't do because the size of the site vs. the cost of plant hire wouldn't have been worth it. Machines that are capable of this task are variously called trommels, riddles and screeners. An example of a screener that I could find:

soil screener

From this website particular to landscaping.

Obviously what is available for hire and at what price would vary greatly by your location. However hopefully knowing an example of a type of machine and what it is called is helpful.

  • That looks like what I presumed had to exist somewhere. Sadly, I haven't been able to find any to rent near me that aren't vastly over-sized for the job.
    – Elros
    May 31, 2020 at 17:53

The gravel shown in the reference does not look like it needs to be moved. If necessary add an inch or two of topsoil/humus/compost and put in grass. If you are anywhere near Houston that will likely be St Augustine sod which will add another inch. Raking it level will be some work. I have put in about 5 tons of flagstone and the grass has no problem growing over it. .Last year I had to lift about 100 ft of flagstone paths and reset them on top of the grass.

  • The reference picture is just an example of the kind of rock. In my case, it's been embedded in a great deal of dirt and is covered in brush.
    – Elros
    May 31, 2020 at 0:06

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