As a ground cover, landscaping rocks are often employed. Rocks for garden beds have numerous advantages, including lowering water consumption and the need to mow. The boulders will not degrade or fly away like lightweight mulch.

Rocks are very ornamental and can enhance the look of your garden beds. However, when weeds appear, it might put a damper on your celebration. Learn what to put under rocks to keep weeds out of your garden!

What you should do before laying your rocks

The first step is to get rid of the already present weeds so that we can place rocks and then things beneath the rocks to prevent weeds from reappearing.

Set up the area

The area should be cleansed of any unwanted flora before placing any weed-killing barrier and a thick layer of pebbles. Hand-pull visible weeds from the dirt.

A small hand rake can aid in the removal of difficult weeds with deep roots in the soil. Pull the rake up from beneath the root. Move-in tiny sections over the backyard, putting removed weeds in a plastic bag or bucket to decrease the number of spores that can drift off the plant and settle into the earth.

Organic and chemical weed killers

After eliminating all the weeds, sprinkle the area with weed killer or vinegar. Wear work gloves, a particle mask, and safety goggles when using a chemical-based weed killer. As you spray the solution into the weeded area, the fumes can irritate your eyes, nose, and throat, and the chemicals can irritate your skin.

Household vinegar can be used to treat areas that are not infected with weeds. However, the larger the proportion of acetic acid in the vinegar, the better it prevents weed growth. Horticultural vinegar contains at least 20% acetic acid and is effective at inhibiting potential development. Allow the vinegar to soak in after sprinkling it over the weeded area.

Cover the area with a pre-emergent that will work for a few years to keep weeds from growing under the layer of rocks. Install a steel edging border around the edges of the rock area if it is close to or next to a lawn or planting bed. The border should be at least 3 inches high to prevent plant, grass, and weed roots from entering the rocky area.

Set up a border

A landscape border around rocky regions can help keep invasive weeds and grassroots out of the rock areas. In some circumstances, weeds that appear on your rocks may be sprouts from roots or runners. A landscape border acts as a physical weed barrier, reducing the number of weeds growing among rocks.

  • Create a strong landscaping border around rock regions. Metal and wood are both terrific choices.
  • A solid border keeps weeds and grass out of your rocks.
  • A border aids in the containment of small rocks or gravel. This prevents the rock layer from thinning out at the margins, resulting in a deep, weed-resistant surface.

Weed invasion frequently starts at the borders of rocky regions where the rock or gravel has become distributed and thin. Weeds and grasses easily establish themselves in these narrow spaces; a strong border around your rocks keeps them in place. This keeps rocks from spreading and thinning, resulting in a deep, weed-resistant rock layer.


Hand-weeding is the most effective approach to killing weeds down to the root without using chemicals. This may appear to be difficult work, yet no home cure is as effective as hand weeding. The process can be easier if you use the correct weeding tool.

  • Remove weeds along with their roots to thoroughly kill them.
  • Discard weeds promptly to prevent them from shedding seeds after uprooting them.

When pulling weeds, please put them in a bag and throw them away immediately. Weeds left on the surface may try to re-root or shed weed seeds. Weed seeds can survive composting. Thus all removed weeds should be treated as rubbish.

Flame weeding

Flame weeding is an excellent method for eliminating resistant weeds in landscaping rocks. Because there are usually only a few attractive plants growing near your rocks, you can utilize the superheated air produced by a flame weeder to kill weeds without causing too much damage to other plants.

  • Flame weeders kill weeds without the use of herbicides.
  • When using a flame weeder, position the flame 3–6 inches (7.5–15 cm) above the weeds. The weeds are killed in 1/10 of a second by the superheated air.
  • Do not fire the weeds or contact the flame directly with them; it will wilt within hours and be completely dead in a few days. This is both unneeded and risky.

Before employing a flame weeder, always examine the circumstances. Although proper usage of a flame weeder never causes weeds to catch fire, accidents sometimes occur. Do not use a flame weeder when there is a drought or in areas where brush fires are widespread.

What can you plant under stones to prevent weeds?

raking stones

A rock garden can transform a drab area of your yard into a showpiece. When you add bushes to your rock garden, you’ll have plant life that doesn’t need constant care.

However, they are not free of weeds, and as these sprout between your rocks, they affect the appearance and compete with your plants for nutrients.

Here’s a quick rundown of the weed control options when dealing with these weeds.


A black plastic sheet used as a garden cover beneath landscaping rock effectively controls weeds. You can usually get a large sheet to cover as much ground as you need in one go without overlapping pieces that allow weeds to grow through.

It does, however, have some drawbacks. Plastic is not good for the environment. The corners of the plastic will occasionally stick up through the rock, ruining the landscaping. Plastic is prone to tearing as well.

The most significant disadvantage of plastic is that it is not permeable, which means that rain will not sink into your soil, and nearby plants or your lawn will not use that moisture. Any living organisms in the soil will perish due to a lack of oxygen. This can result in root rot.

You could cut holes in the plastic surrounding your shrubs to allow air and water to enter.

Plastic takes a long time to disintegrate and can be difficult to remove. It might also be difficult to get rid of.

If you must use plastic, consider one with UV protection to prevent it from degrading after a few years.

Landscape fabric

Landscaping fabric is an effective weed barrier that allows water, nutrients, and air to reach your soil and plants. It is lighter than a plastic cover and, while more expensive, allows your plants to breathe.

Landscape fabric is classified into three types:

  1. Spun — this material is sturdy and durable and will not puncture or rip. It is frequently patterned in a circular or swirling pattern. It may be necessary to drill holes to allow plants to grow and tree roots to spread. It is durable and will last for many years.
  2. Perforated — this material contains pre-cut holes that allow air and water to pass through. It is not heavy. It rips relatively easily.
  3. Woven — with its crisscross pattern, this fabric allows water and air to reach the soil beneath. You may need to make holes for larger roots to pass through. It does not pierce or tear.

Landscape fabric keeps boulders and supporting sand or gravel from sinking into the soil due to their weight. The fabric aids in soil stabilization and erosion control. This is especially significant if you reside in a high-rainfall location.

It is also convenient to use because it comes in a roll. Overlap the weed barrier fabric pieces when laying them down so that weeds cannot grow through any gaps. Cover the fabric with rocks to keep it in place; alternatively, use landscaping staples along the edge. To achieve the greatest results, space the staples the same distance apart.

A thin layer of mulch, such as stone or bark chips, might be used to conceal the fabric. Take care not to over-mulch the area. Mulch decomposes quickly, resulting in richer soil on top of the landscape fabric.

Weeds are capable of growing in soil. As the mulch decomposes, it produces a natural fertilizer for your beautiful plants; however, the weed fabric beneath the mulch prevents the nutrients from reaching the roots of your plants.

Weeds will not be prevented from growing indefinitely by landscape fabric. Weed control often lasts a few years. When organic material accumulates between the rocks, weed seeds are brought in by the wind, and weeds sprout once more. These new weeds might be difficult to eradicate because their roots become entangled in the fabric.

Even the greatest landscaping fabric may degrade after a few years, allowing weeds to resurface.

Newspaper or cardboard

In the short term, cardboard or newspaper can help inhibit weed growth.

If you pick these for weed control, lay them down in layers of many sheets. This will slow down degradation. Make sure to overlap each layer to prevent weeds from developing in any gaps.

If you intend to grow plants in the area, avoid using too much newspaper, as this can restore more carbon in your soil. To compensate, you may need to use a high-nitrogen fertilizer. Do not use any newspaper coloring pages to prevent chemical seepage into your soil.

While inexpensive, cardboard or newspaper decay rapidly and lose their ability to keep weeds at bay. The landscaping rocks will begin to sink into the soil once they have degraded.

Cardboard or newspaper must be replaced regularly, which is time-consuming but may be recycled in your garden.

None of these methods prevent all weeds from growing. You will still need to weed your rock garden regularly to keep it looking nice.

Avoiding weed-killing methods in landscape rocks

Several prominent “natural” methods are promoted as options for weed control in rocks. Some of these treatments are ineffectual, while others might be even more harmful to your lawn than herbicides. Be mindful of the weed killers listed below.

  • Salt: Salt is a soil toxin that can impede plant regrowth for months or years. Furthermore, water easily transports salt through the soil. If you apply salt to a rocky region to discourage weeds, runoff water will most likely transfer the salt to neighboring plants and grass, destroying them. Longitudinal herbicides are designed to adhere to the soil to reduce runoff death. Salt can be more harmful than herbicides.
  • Vinegar: Weed killers, including apple cider vinegar, white vinegar, or even high-strength horticultural vinegar, do not destroy weeds and grass. Vinegar kills only the above-ground section of the plant and does not attack the roots. In most situations, the weed will regenerate a few weeks after being treated with vinegar.
  • Boiling Water: Like vinegar, boiling water only kills weeds on the surface. Soil absorbs water over time, keeping it from reaching the roots while it is still hot. This approach will destroy small, immature weeds, but strong grass and dandelions will rebound soon.

In weed management in your rock landscaping, you want a long-lasting solution that does not harm neighboring plants. Homemade weed killers, such as vinegar and boiling water, are significantly less effective than hand weeding.

Weed prevention

As with most sorts of prevention, preventing weed seeds from sprouting takes a little additional time to save a lot later.

Fertilize enough, but not too much

Too little fertilizer can result in thin grass that struggles to compete with weeds. Too much fertilizer encourages the growth of certain weeds, most notably annual bluegrass, Bermuda grass, and crabgrass. Strike a balance by paying attention to the application rates on the bundle.

In addition, apply a fertilizer with a high percentage of controlled-release nitrogen, such as urea, sulfur-coated urea, or IBDU. These give a slow, consistent flow of nutrients.

The frequency and timing of your fertilizer activities are also important factors in maintaining healthy lawns. Both rely on the sort of grass you have and the length of your growing season.

Most northern lawns require only one or two fertilizer applications per year, once in the fall and perhaps again in the spring. Southern grasses may need three feedings: early to mid-spring, soon after the grass greens, early summer, and early fall.

Water grass infrequently and deeply.

Frequent, light watering promotes shallow roots and aids in the growth of annual bluegrass, chickweed, crabgrass, sedges, and other weed seeds. Watering too little causes the lawn to suffer, while spotted spurge, Bermuda grass, quackgrass, and other weeds prefer drier soil to thrive.

Instead, give your lawn infrequent, deep soaks. Lawns require around 1 inch of water every week. Place an empty tuna can on the lawn to gauge when you’ve applied 1 inch of water.

Apply preemergence herbicides

Preemergence herbicides, like those containing trifluralin or oryzalin (look for these chemicals on the label), or nontoxic corn gluten meal, kill weeds as they germinate and do not eliminate existing weeds. To be effective, a preemergence herbicide must be applied to soil that has been cleansed of visible weeds; also, most of these herbicides must be watered into the soil.

Check the label to see if it is safe to use around the landscaping plants you have and if it is efficient against the regularly present weeds.

Deprive weeds of water

Weeds cannot survive in the absence of moisture. Drip irrigation or soaker hoses prevent weed seeds from germinating, depriving them of water in areas with little or no summer rain. These systems distribute water to plants’ root zones at the soil level. The soil surface and soil surroundings remain reasonably dry.

On the other hand, overhead sprinkler systems spray water over the entire soil surface, providing water to garden plants and weeds.

In the “Where to Find It” section, you may find detailed information on drip irrigation from the Irrigation and Green Industry Network.

Mow higher

Mowing too short degrades turf by diminishing a grass leaf’s capacity to produce enough nutrients. It also allows light to reach the soil’s surface, allowing crabgrass and goosegrass seeds to germinate and flourish.

Check with your local extension office to determine the recommended mowing heights for your grass type. Then, mow at the highest setting, normally between 2 and 4 inches.

Weeding mistakes

In attempting to eradicate weeds, people frequently make mistakes that result in more weeds. The following are the most common:

  1. Leaving flowering weeds on the ground. Weeds like chickweed and purslane can produce seeds even after they have been plucked.
  2. Piling too much mulch on top of the landscaping fabric. As the mulch degrades, it creates an ideal environment for weed development from wind-borne seeds. Weeds can become trapped in the fabric. Limit the depth of the mulch to 1 or 2 inches over the landscape fabric.
  3. Using weed-seed-containing mulch. Weed seeds can be found in mulches such as straw and wood chips. To avoid this issue, purchase mulch devoid of weed seeds from a reliable nursery.
  4. Throwing weeds containing seeds into the compost pile. A good compost pile may reach temperatures of 160°F, which is hot enough to kill weed seeds. However, there are frequently cool locations where the seeds can survive; those who do will be composted and dispersed in your garden.
  5. Breaking apart the roots of perennial weeds while digging them out: Each component has the potential to grow into a new plant.
  6. Planting weeds alongside your newly planted shrubs and trees. A few Bermuda grass or Nutsedge plants growing in a nursery container might spread and reproduce in your garden. Make sure to get rid of them when you start planting.

What is best to put under landscape rock?

Rock beds are low-maintenance but make sure to lay a weed barrier between the rock and the soil to prevent weeds from sprouting.

Heavy-duty landscape fabric is the ideal barrier, but other materials, such as black plastic, can also be used. If you have landscape rocks, you may help prevent new weeds from developing by treating and eliminating them before they drop seeds. If you’re going to pull weeds, be sure you get the roots.

If you prepare an area to install landscaping rock, you should do so properly. You can install a steel edging border at least 3 inches high to keep weeds, grasses, and other plants from sending roots into your rock beds.

While black plastic can be used, many are biodegradable and will rot; moreover, holes in it will be required to allow water to infiltrate.

The best material is landscape fabric, but if you want to add something additional to ensure no light can pass through, you can block the sun even more by layering a thick piece of newspaper or cardboard over the top of the fabric.

Last update on 2024-05-06 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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