You don't have to live in Appalachia or near the Rocky Mountains to contend with rocks in your garden. Whether you're clearing a large space to grow vegetables or smoothing out soil for a small herb garden, you have to clear away debris before you can prepare the soil and plant. Removing stones is easier if you have tools to loosen the soil or shift the weight of the rocks.
Rocks on the ground's surface are not anchored in or buried by soil. Because of these circumstances, these rocks are the simplest to move. Tools that are useful for surface rocks include a rake to gather up smaller stones, a pry bar and a wheelbarrow to shift and move heavier rocks. A wheelbarrow is more difficult to control than a garden cart, but is more suitable for moving rocks because garden carts are made of flimsy metal not designed to withstand a heavy load.
After removing rocks from the surface of the soil, a gardener next should loosen compacted soil to bring subsurface rocks closer to the surface. Some good tools for loosening soil include a rototiller, garden fork, spade, shovel, rake and hoe. Work slowly when using these tools to avoid breaking them on rocks that may be lurking below the surface of soil.
Once all of the larger rocks have been removed, you may have pea-sized rocks and gravel left. These types of rocks are difficult to remove because they are numerous and small. A soil sieve or screen may be helpful to separate gravel from soil. Simply pile gravel into the screen using a shovel and shake the screen until the soil falls through, leaving the gravel in the screen.
For larger gardening jobs – such as moving boulders that are too heavy to lift by hand – use a garden tractor. Garden tractors come with a variety of attachments including grading blades, heavy duty plows and large gardening rakes. These tools can dislodge buried rocks or larger rocks that are difficult to manually remove from a garden.