The Best Tools And Methods To Remove Rocks From Yard

How to remove rocks from yard? Imagine a situation where you have bought yourself a new house where the previous owners installed a landscape full of rocks. As a matter of fact, the previous owners loved the stone-y landscape so much that they decided to have rocks all around.

When you are moving into the newly-vacated house for the first time, you might trip over some of these stones. It is also quite possible that you might not like the look of the rocks, just like me. Additionally, if you plan on converting the landscape into a garden, a multitude of rocks can pose major problems. Rocks are so much harder to remove since you cannot simply dump them into the trash.

So, how do you remove rocks from yard? There are quite many easy solutions that would require the use of a few simple tools that will make the job a lot easier. I’ve tried these tools myself and I can assure you that they can truly help you remove rocks from your backyard.


1. Cultivator or Rototiller

remove rocks from yard

A rototiller is a powered garden tool that people use to loosen up the soil before planting and to keep non-planted areas and pathways aerated during the growing season. Since these tools will simply chew up anything that crosses their path, rototillers are often used to loosen sod in lawns before creating or enlarging a garden.

For a home gardener, a rototiller is quite an invaluable means of turning the soil swiftly. It eliminates the need for hoeing or spade digging and is quite useful for keeping pathways between plant rows clear during the growing season. Rototillers are also efficient weed controllers and effectively remove weeds through clusters of weed or clods of soil with no hassles. You can learn how to use a tiller by viewing this video.

Most rototillers are normally fueled by spinning tines and gasoline-powered engines, such as the HYYKJ-US Tilling Machine. They must push through the soil in order to be tilled up. There are also quite a number of smaller electric-powered rototiller models available such as the Earthwise TC70016. Although all rototiller models perform the same function, there are several different types of tillers available.

If you are rototilling your plot of land for the first time, you might have a difficult experience because the machine’s tines will work against the undisturbed soil. However, if the plot is tilled on an annual or seasonal basis, there will be much lesser resistance.

Since a rototiller is a powerful and big machine, you must read the owner’s manual carefully; failing to do so can lead to serious injury. You should also check the condition of the ground; the dry ground is very hard to till through while extremely wet soil will create a swampy muddle. Additionally, try not to run your rototiller through debris.

2. Scoop Shovel

remove rocks from yard

A shovel is a tool that is primarily used for moving bulk materials, lifting, and digging through things like ore, sand, snow, gravel, coal, and soil. Shovels are hand tools that comprise a brad blade that is fixed to a medium-length handle. These blades are usually made of hard plastics or sheet steel, which are very robust.

Scoop shovels are one of the many types of shovels that you will find in the market. They are wide-flared and quite broad with a flat tip, which makes them quite terrible tools for digging. However, they are fantastic at moving out loose materials like stone or coal.

Additionally, these shovels can also be snow and grains. It should be remembered that scoop shovels are a bit heavier than their aluminum counterparts but will less likely warp or twist over time, which makes them quite long-lasting.

You must choose the right type of shovel to remove rocks from yard. If you wish to remove rocks from deep under the soil, you need to choose a shovel with a round point for normal digging or a trowel for precision tasks.

For lifting and moving the rocks, you need to choose a shovel with a square point blade that can carry a substantial amount of rocks in a single go, like the AM Leonard Shovel. Since you will be removing rocks from yard of variable sizes and weight, you need to choose a shovel that is built of sturdy materials, like metal, so that it does not break by the heavyweight of the rocks.

3. Garden Rake

how to remove rocks from yard

Rakes are hand tools that consist of a long handle that is attached to the head. The head consists of many tines, called prongs or teeth. Rakes come in a lot of different sizes and designs and are made for a lot of different tasks.

Rakes are most commonly used in tasks like landscaping, gardening, horticulture, and agriculture. Some are also made for specific tasks like gathering grass clippings, hay, leaves, and other lightweight materials. Garden rakes are also known as bow rakes, flathead rakes, ground rakes, level heads, or soil rakes.

The tines of a garden rake are very rigid and are usually made of steel. They are relatively thick and short and have enough space between them to move larger debris like stones. These rakes are designed to move through clay or compact soil and break them so that the texture becomes finer.

It is very easy to use a garden rake. There are a lot of common garden rakes available that are great for clearing up your lawn of rocks and stones, like the Gonicc rake. You simply need to run the hard and sharp tines over the ground and pull away debris off the turf. For most people, using a garden rake is the best way to remove rocks from yard.

Garden rakes are also useful for leveling, grooming, and pushing around materials, such as compost, gravel, mulch, and soil. While working on your garden, you will see that the tines are also great for spreading materials, apart from breaking them up. Alternatively, you can perform the same task with the help of the smooth side of the head for more precision.

4. Pick

best way to remove rocks from yard

A pick, also known as the pickaxe, is a garden tool shaped like the alphabet T that is mostly used for prying. The head is commonly made of metal and is attached perpendicularly to a long wooden handle. Today, you can also see handles made of metal and fiberglass, like the TABOR TOOLS Pickaxe.

A pick is mostly used for breaking up rocks and hard ground. The metal head is mostly used for breaking up hard surfaces, like rocks or dry, hardened earth. The head of the pick is quite heavy, which helps in increasing the momentum of the tool without much effort; the small surface area of the pick makes it quite an effective tool.

In order to learn how to break shale and sandstone using a pickaxe, you need to watch this video.

A pick is often confused with a mattock. The names of these tools are often used to mean the same thing but actually, they are different tools. A mattock has a broad adze or horizontal blade with an axe or a pick on the other end of its head. On the other hand, a pickaxe has a single pointed pick on one end and a narrow chisel on the other.

The pick part of the pickaxe is mostly used to break or split hard earth, concrete, and rocks while the chisel end of the tool is used to pry apart broken rocks or paving slabs. You should always stand with the object that you are trying to hit with the pick end slightly in front of you so that you do not bring down the tool too close to your feet.

You should always grasp the pick with both hands tightly and securely and keep your knees flexed for absorbing the shock. Since the tool is quite heavy, one needs to exercise caution while using it.

5. Bucket or Wheel Barrow

remove rocks from yard

A wheel machine is a compound machine that functions on three simple factors of physics – inclined plane, axle and wheel, and lever. Also known as a bucket, a wheelbarrow is a small hand-propelled vehicle that is fitted with usually a single wheel. They are designed to be pushed and guided by a person with the help of two attached handles and maybe a sail if the wheelbarrow is being navigated by the wind. Typically, a wheel barrow looks like this Garden Star Cart.

Wheelbarrows are often used by landscapers to alter the natural environment or their private property. While big trucks will still be used to transport the gravel and mulch, a wheelbarrow is used to transport a large pile to their desired areas. Home landscapers make use of the barrow to transport shrubs, stones, smaller trees, and fertilizers.

Wheelbarrows are quite helpful since they reduce the strain on the back and neck when moving heavy stones to different places. Medium to large-sized stones and rocks can fit inside the basin of the wheelbarrow easily, thereby requiring you to make fewer trips to and fro from your garden.

Before using a wheelbarrow, you must conduct a safety inspection. You must take your time to examine every part of the wheelbarrow to make sure that it is in perfect working condition. The handles of the barrow should be free of any type of crack and the grip must be in good condition.

You need to check if all the bolts, washers, and nuts are placed in tight. The frames should not be bent or cracked as well. The bucket of the barrow must be free of any bends, cracks, and holes. Always remember that you should never overload a wheelbarrow and give it away for repairs once in a while.

6. Gardening Gloves

removing rocks from yard

In the most ideal situation, human beings have no problem touching the earth and using it in any way with their bare hands for tasks like gardening, breaking plants, transporting rocks, etc. However, there is a need to dress the fingers while gardening. Hence, it has been recommended by experts that you need a pair of gardening gloves while engaging in any sort of gardening activity.

Wearing gardening gloves is very useful since it will protect your hands from mud and keep them dry and clean, especially while working in extremely harsh weather conditions. They will also keep your hands warm during the cold season. Additionally, gloves will also save you from infected cuts and painful splinters, thereby reducing the risk of infection.

Apart from keeping your hands clean and safe from cuts, pricks, and other particles, gloves will also help in keeping your hands in shape. Gardening gloves will also protect your hands from any type of animal bite or insect sting from the fauna living in your garden.

You will find many different types of gardening gloves in the market that are tailored to specific needs. For instance, gloves made of cloth are quite cheap and used mostly just to keep the hands clean. On the other hand, leather gloves, like the StoneBreaker Gloves, are a bit more expensive, but are waterproof and protect your hands from scrapes, cuts, and thorns.

How To Remove Rocks From Yard?

Here are some methods that can help you remove stones from your backyard in the most effective manner.

Surface rock removal for gardens and lawns

Removing rocks from the surface is comparatively easier than removing those that are underground. As long as the soil is compatible, you can make use of tools like a garden rake to collect the surface stones in a single pile and a scoop shovel to shovel them into a wheelbarrow and haul them away. You can also make use of specialized machines for this type of task.

Surface rock removal for gardens and lawns

Getting rid of small rocks

While grass can certainly grow over rocky terrain, you might be risking damage to your gardening equipment, like a lawnmower, if you use them to remove the rocks. Furthermore, if you are planning to make a garden out of your yard, it might require even more than just stone removal. In these situations, it is recommended that you make use of a garden rake or a rototiller.

With the help of a rototiller, you will be able to loosen the soil enough to break up the dirt and expose big rocks. You need to be sure to place these rocks in a wheelbarrow as you are uncovering them one after another.

Once you are done with the rototilling, you can make use of a garden rake to pull out any remaining stones stuck in the soil and collect them in a single pile. Pick this pile up into the wheelbarrow or you can simply save them for later uses, like making garden beds or lining paths.

Create a sieve for the wheelbarrow

If you are working on a larger yard area, the method of raking mentioned above might seem like a slow and tedious process. Thankfully, there are many other methods that can help you clear rocks from your yard like building a sieve that fits onto your wheelbarrow. This sieve will sift out bigger stones and rocks with minimum effort. For making this sieve, you will need the following:

  • Hardware cloth
  • Good staple gun
  • Four strips of treated lumber, 1.5-inches thick
  • Four strips of treated two-by-four lumber
  • Four strips of treated one-by-four lumber

Here is how you can measure your wheelbarrow for the precise dimensions before getting started:

  1. Cut the two of the two-by-four lumber to the length of your wheelbarrow or the width of your hardware cloth, if the latter turns out to be shorter than you expected. You need to cut the other remaining two lumber three-inches shorter than the wheelbarrow’s width. In case your wheelbarrow tapers, you might have to use a larger width.
  2. You need to create a box frame by driving the screws or nails right through the ends of the sideboards towards the tips of the shorter boards.
  3. You need to start on one corner and drive the nail stapler down on one side of the hardware cloth to the underside of the frame. Drive in a small nail or screw on the opposite corner and pull the cloth tight. This will help you keep the cloth tight and taut while you are stapling the corner down.
  4. Take the 1.5-inch lumber and nail it to the underside of the hardware cloth for further tightening and preventing breakage.
  5. Lastly, nail the one-by-four boards along the sides in such a way that they overhang on the bottom and hold the sieve in one place. If your wheelbarrow turns out to be longer than the frame, you can simply cut the board into smaller pieces for a more secure fit on the front of the wheelbarrow.

Once your sieve and wheelbarrow are secured into one stone-removing unit, you can simply shovel dirt into it. The hardware cloth will catch all sizes of rocks and stones while smaller aerating pebbles and the soil will be deposited in the wheelbarrow.

Remove excess gravel or pebbles

If you wish to remove large amounts of debris or an old gravel path, you can make use of a leaf rake to separate the smaller pebbles from the soil. Under normal circumstances, these pebbles should be left in the landscaped area or the new garden since they normally help in drainage. It should be further noted that if you remove all the pebbles from the yard, the soil might pack down together and might cause flooding over time.

Read more:

Remove boulders

The removal of boulders might prove to be much more of a challenge than rather simply loosening and raking the soil together. You will need the help of several pieces of specific equipment and some elbow grease to successfully complete the task.

Remove boulders

Remove medium-sized or small boulders

There are quite some necessary tools that you need to gather before starting. These are:

  • Wedges and feathers
  • Hammer drill
  • Pointed shovel
  • Mallet
  • Wheelbarrow

Once you have gathered the above-mentioned equipment, here is how you can remove medium-sized or small boulders:

  1. With the help of a pointed shovel, you need to excavate the area around the boulder until it is completely empty. If you are able to, place it in the wheelbarrow.
  2. In the case of larger boulders, you will have to drill holes with a hammer drill and insert the wedges and feathers. Then, you can drive the wedges further in with a mallet to split the boulder into smaller pieces.

Remove large boulders

There are some boulders that you can easily split with the method mentioned above. However, it is nearly impossible to drive a wedge into larger boulders. For rocks of these massive sizes, the best option you have is to make use of a leverage system to shift them from one place to another.

To build a leverage system, you will need the following:

  • Iron Pipe
  • Four-inch nylon straps or a chain
  • Piece of two-by-six-inch lumber
  • Piece of six-by-six-inch lumber
  • Pry bar

It should be understood that moving a large and heavy boulder will consume some of your time. Additionally, you should always take as many breaks as possible and avoid over-exertion at all costs. Thankfully, there are three different ways to move a large boulder, depending on your situation and circumstances:

  1. You can start by sticking a pry bar underneath the boulder and making use of the six-by-six lumber as a wedge to create fulcrum. To dislodge the boulder, you need to pull the bar back against the lumber. All you have to do is repeat these two steps over and over again until your boulder is moved across the yard.
  2. You can lay down two-by-six lumber on top of several robust iron pipes beside the boulder. Similar to the method above, you need to shift the boulder onto this platform. Slowly, continue pushing through the platform and move the boulder out of the yard. Remember to take frequent breaks so that you do not exhaust yourself.
  3. Lastly, it is best if you consider calling in professional movers. Alternatively, you can also get a tractor or truck involved. Similar to step 1, follow the steps and wrap the nylon straps or chain around the boulder. Attach the other end to the tow of the vehicle and use it to tow the boulder away from the yard.


With the help of the tools and methods mentioned above, you now know how to remove rocks from yard. Depending on their sizes and how deep they are buried, you can follow the steps mentioned above and you will be able to move the rocks away from your garden with ease.

Whether you are trying to remove a single large boulder or a bunch of smaller stones, your yard rock removal experience need not be a daunting task. With the right method and tools, you will be able to remove rocks from yard nicely and easily.

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