Tuesday, June 20, 2017

It's Harvest Time or the Care and Feeding of River Rock

A Bumper Crop!

River rock, as I have come to understand it, is a very special breed of rock that requires specific care to produce a truly bumper crop. I will lay out below the steps I believe were followed at the retro ranch, oh those many years ago, so that you might create your own river rock garden.

Planting River Rock Seedlings:
  1. Plant river rock in large, deep swaths across your garden for a natural, riverbed look.
  2. To promote drainage make sure to use a thick layer a gravel under the your river rock seedlings.
  3. Soil is not required for river rock to thrive, the roots of trees and shrubs will fill in the gaps and tickle the rocks when they are young, spurring quicker growth and happier rocks.
  4. River rock does not like to be lonely, so when planting river rock seedlings, make sure you group them together, preferably on top of one another.
  5. Over time your river rock bed will collect leaves and pine needles which act as a natural blanket keeping your river rock garden warm in the winter and cool in the summer.
  6. Leave your river rock seedlings undisturbed. Your river rock will take many years to mature, but the wait is worth it!
Planting River Rock Seedlings
Planting river rock seedlings

Cover and leave the seedlings alone

Harvesting Your River Rock Crop:

  1. You'll know that it's harvest time when the ground swells and the river rock starts to "bloom."

    Two foot high river rock "bloom"

  2. Pick mature river rock from the surface of the swell with a gloved hand, gently nudging reluctant rock from their nests.
  3. Carefully test to see if the rest of your river rock crop is ready. I recommend using a three spike hand cultivator to gently scrape the remaining top layer of river rock, exposing tree roots and the layer below.
  4. If your river rock bed is ready, it's harvest time! Dig deep with the cultivator, six to twelve inches to expose the best river rock fruit. You can then pick them up by hand or for faster harvesting use a spade.

    Harvest time!

  5. We use a soil sifter to pick out the ripest river rock fruit, then return the smaller fruits to the garden to reseed for our next harvest! We find that Home Depot orange 5-gallon pails are easiest to use when harvesting by hand.

    Sorting river rock crop

    The harvest operation

Seriously, we have removed over 50 buckets of river rock from the front garden (and around the house) over the last month or so in order to lower the overall height of the garden under the pine trees and to facilitate planting hosta and Japanese forest grass.

We've had help from Evan the rock monster (of whom Scott wrote a couple blogs ago), our neighbor to the West, the neighbors across the street, and several folks that responded to an ad I placed on Facebook Classifieds. Had these folks not wanted the river rock I'm not sure how we would have rid the yard of them.

And the work continues. Everywhere we look there is more! Please let me know if you want some river rock of your own, I'm happy to help you start your own garden!