Maintaining a lawn can take a lot of work, but a rock yard is hassle-free, requiring little upkeep. If you have tried to grow grass and have simply given up, do not lose hope. A rock yard can look attractive and never needs mowing.
Kill all grass and weeds in the lawn. If you have a cool-season grass, such as fescue, bluegrass or ryegrass, turn off the water supply and dig the grass out. If you have a warm-season grass, such as bermuda, buffalo or zoysia, water heavily for three to five days during the growing season and when the grass is green, preferably in the fall when root growth is high. Wait 48 hours, then apply an herbicide to the grass in the morning. Do not water for several days. If any new grass has grown in a matter of two weeks, repeat the process. Dig all dead grass and weeds up.
Dig the soil down to a depth of 4 inches. If the lawn is extremely uneven, dig deeper in some areas to level it out. You want to dig down so the rocks don't sit atop a high ground and wash away in a storm.
Smooth the soil using a steel rake. Compact the soil with a hand tamper.
Lay about 2 1/2 inches of crushed stone pack -- stone dust mixed with small crushed stones -- over the compacted soil. Rake it out to make it even.
Spray the stone pack with enough water to dampen it. Compact it to 2 inches thick, using a hand tamper to create an even, hard surface.
Lay landscape fabric over the compacted soil pack to keep any straggler weeds from growing up. If you need to go around a curve, cut the fabric along the inside and outside edges. Overlap the fabric at the cuts at the inside of the curve and allow it to fan out at the outside of the curve. Secure the fabric tightly with landscaping spikes.
Lay edging around the yard, following the edges of the landscape fabric, to enforce the area that will hold the gravel.
Pour enough gravel, river rocks or other desired small rocks to completely cover the landscape fabric. Leave about 1/2 inch of edging showing at the top so the rocks do not spill over. Rake the rocks to make the surface even.
Lay larger decorative rocks down, pushing them slightly into the smaller rocks. Rake the area to even out the surrounding rocks.