How to get rid of a gravel yard?

14 years ago


So I am moving in about a month to a house with a rock (landscape gravel) front and back yard. UGH! I understand the reasons why this is done, but I want to get rid of the rocks. I think it is depressing.

Has anyone bought a house with gravel yards, and, if so, what did you do to get rid of them?

Any hints and pearls of wisdom from experience will be vastly appreciated.


PS - I think after the rocks are gone, we will plant trees to get some shade going.

Comments (18)

  • turtleman49
    14 years ago

    I wish I could say theres a easy way to accomplish what you want, but the old "Wheel-Barrel and Shovel" is about it, or a tractor with a loader on it..
    Depending on the rocks or size of them, and what you want to do with the landscape, they can be mixed with topsoil and made into some good sized landscape mounds, add a few large granite boulders then just add some of your favorite plants

  • greenlust
    14 years ago

    Fall is a good time to plant trees. You could clear some of the gravel out to make spot for trees and go ahead with tree planting. If you are new to Arizona, might take some time to get used to gravel. Maybe focus on what trees to get and you will get lost in all the tree choices out there and forget about the gravel. :)

  • splats
    14 years ago

    Oh boy - good luck, you are going to need it because this is either expensive or a lot of work. I just went through this with a new house that had that 1' rock spread all over the front and back. I hated the stuff. I now have a synthetic lawn in the front and palm trees, sythetic lawn and 1/4- decorative in the back yard. If you are going to plant anything you got to get rid of it. You a combination of choices. here is what I did. With enough time you can move moutains. In the back that is what I did. One wheel barrel at a time I moved about 12 tons of rock into a pile. did a lot of that in the front also. but most I had removed by a bobcat service. That is the way to go and you will probably spend between 250-400 dollars depending on were you are and how bad they need the work. Look in one of those supermarket magazines like the Supershopper that has all the add s for old cars, handymen, etc. Look for a couple of Bobcat services under the landscaping section. They will come out and give you a free estimate.

  • juju222
    Original Author
    14 years ago

    Thanks for this input!!

    Turtleman - Mix with topsoil? Hmmm...I hadn't considered that - I guess that would improve drainage as I understand the soil is clay-ish. Is that right?

    greenlust - I like your sense of humor tee-hee. Good that Fall is a good time to plant trees - that is perfect timing. And yes I will be new to Arizona. I have lived in California all my life, now in perfect zone 10! I love to grow roses and plumerias.

    splais - Bobcat sounds like the way to go! I was fearing it would cost about $5,000!! So even $500 sounds good. Was that AFTER you put it in mounds?
    How do you like your synthetic grass?

    Thanks again,

  • aztreelvr
    14 years ago

    Once you get rid of your granite, why not cover your soil with composted mulch for finely shredded wood? Many of the city parks are doing this now and it is so much more beneficial for the soil. It slows evaporation, protects tender roots from the scorching and freezing temperatures, and as it decomposes it releases nutrients back into the soil.

    My 2 cents.

  • splats
    14 years ago

    I spend $250 here in yuma to move a complete dumptruck load of gravel. The second time I spend $250 for two dump truck loads. In both cases they did the scooping themselves on most of it. I suspect your costs in major metropolitan area will be a little higher; plus they have a lot more work, so don't give as good a deal during winter visitor season.

    In a nut shell, the synthetic lawn is incredible. I did it myself at a cost of about $4.50 a square foot. having someone else do it will cost you about $10-$12 a square foot

  • wolp8
    14 years ago

    Hi Judy,
    we moved to Arizona 2 years ago and I can definitely understand what you mean about hating the rocks!!!
    Our front yard was rocked in when we bought the house. The backyard had some grass (Bermuda) and a LOT of dirt.
    After putting in a pool and having a HUGE mudhole in the backyard, we tried growing Fescue. It is a 1/2 acre lot and we have 2 VERY active dogs.
    I tell you..... I was in misery for months and months as we tried blocking off sections for the grass to grow. That also meant that the remaining sections (DIRT!!!) was the only thing open for the dogs to run around in! Well.... we have cream-colored tile in the house! I think you get the picture! Dogs are running in and out of house and since you want to grow grass when its a little cooler it means it is also moist in the mornings and evenings and whenever the sprinkler was on the other parts.
    Constant, and I mean constant, dirt and muddy pawprints. Oh and then there is the Monsoon!!!

    Then the Bermuda grass was another thing (it kept coming through our planted Fescue and took pretty much over again). In the winter the Bermuda went dormant and our dogs layed in it (and rolled around in it). It breaks off into little bitty pieces and clings to the dogs fur.
    While our Catahoula was able to shake most of it off, it clung to our black lab. Lots of times she looked like a tan dog. Brushing didn't even get lots off. Of course it DID come off in the house sometime.... so more dirt.
    This year we finally surrendered and hired a landscaping company to lay out a plan.
    We got a cement deck poured, irrigation systems installed and then fescue sod layed in a irregular shape. The rest of the yard was filled with landscaping rock. My planting areas were bordered off and offset with a different color of rock. They did all that in 4 weeks and I can't believe how little dirt there is in my house anymore!! It just changed so dramatically I have a hard time not liking the rocks anymore!
    It also looks gorgeous in the back yard now as we have been digging in tons of bushes and plants for my butterflies and hummingsbirds.
    All that said, I STILL would love just grass all around instead of rocks but I guess that is not really feasible living in the desert. I think we found a good compromise and after all that planting (and we are not done yet... thankfully we had a Lowe's move into town this year!) it is softening the harsh look of rocks.
    That's my story and I'm sticking to it! :)
    Greetings from Sierra Vista!

  • juju222
    Original Author
    14 years ago

    Some more great ideas! Thanks.

    aztreelvr - I have been thinking of composted mulch for sure to protect the roots on my plants. I think I'll stay away from the bark, as I have heard that attracts scorpions, and who needs those!

    splais - thanks for the details on the gravel removal and synthetic lawn costs. That really helps! Can you walk on your grass?

    wolp8 - I'm glad there was a happy ending to your story. I can imagine the problems with the dirt being tracked in...we don't have dogs, so guess that's not an issue for us, but then I don't want a dirt yard either LOL. I don't know if there are any bermuda grass sprouts in the yard or not -- I'll do an "inspection" when it cools off a little bit. I know that sometimes there are "weeds" that come up thru the gravel, but I don't know what they are. Your yard sounds nice -- do you have px?

  • charlie85748
    14 years ago

    We put an above ground swimming pool in the back yard and had to clear out a 30x20 foot area of existing gravel. In Tucson there is a group called freeycle and you can post an offer for free gravel. People will come and haul it themselves or you could can put it in a huge mound for them to scoop up.
    It was a great way to get rid of it and help someone else out in the process. Plus it keeps it out of the landfills

    Good luck,

  • juju222
    Original Author
    14 years ago

    Actually there is a like group in our area called West Phoenix Freecycle - a yahoo group. That is a great option! I didn't think anyone would *want* gravel, but you proved me wrong.


  • amalgamation
    14 years ago

    I was going to mention putting an ad in Freecycle or Craigslist or whatever is local to you, but folks have already mentioned that :) Heck, even on this gardening board there's the "Have & Wanted" section. On Daves site too.

    BTW, since you are new to AZ, here's a couple of good URLs that came is *really* handy for me when I moved here - - nice catalog with photos of the plants they sell. I got a lot of good planting ideas from them.

    I found out we had terribly invasive plants already in our yard, and what were good alternatives for them here -

    The Botanical Gardens - Gardening Calender -

    Their top book choices -

    Good luck :)

  • juju222
    Original Author
    14 years ago

    Hey, amalgamation, I see you found the thread! Thank you for the links.

    Do you think Tucson and Phoenix are comparable in what can grow there? (Now you can *really* tell I'm a newbie)


  • amalgamation
    14 years ago

    Hi Juju,

    I've only been to Phoenix a few times, but I'd say yes.

    I first read on AZ gardening, then Tucson-specific gardening and then got those booklets from the Phoenix Water people - All seem to say the same things. If you were moving to a higher elevation in AZ, things would be different, but from what I remember of the weather (oppressive heat), the main parts of Phoenix were very similar to where I live in Tucson.

    You might have problems with plants that are on the border of a "zone" ... I'm not sure about that. We had a frost here last year that killed some cacti and other things, but other than covering things you know are "tender" for a couple of weeks - paying attention to plants' highest zone number seems most important here in the desert.

    To tell you the truth, most of what I've paid attention to when researching plants is the amount of sun and heat they can take, and how much water they need. Realizing this came only after much denial and losing many plants. Oh, and you *absolutely must* plant most things in fall. If you remember nothing else, remember that! I tried to plant in the spring a couple of times and nothing survived. Including the native plants.

    At first I tried planting stuff I'd loved when in CA and NY - Don't do it! Unless they are succulents or cacti :D

    What's great about the book and sites I mentioned is you can see there are gorgeous plants that smell good, will feed birds, hummingbirds, butterflies, and they will actually *thrive* here. They might not be what you are used to, but change can be a good thing.

    Of course, a gifted gardener could probably get many things to grow which I cannot... but after losing so many plants over the years I'm always looking for the prettiest plants that take the least amount of effort and water :)

    Most of the plants here have to deal with full, *blazing* sun, which has to be similar to most of Phoenix.

    It's been a pain changing my mindset and learning all this new stuff which is usually the exact opposite of anywhere else I've lived. Happily, more plants survive now because of all the time spent researching and because I can now pry myself away from all the plants I love (but won't survive here) that bigbox stores and a lot of nurseries carry.

    If you have a hard time leaving your favorite plants behind at a nursery, make sure you bring a list of plants that will do well here - AND STICK TO IT! That's the hardest part :P

    Good luck!

  • Arielle Minicozzi
    4 years ago

    As a new AZ homeowner hailing from NJ this thread is amazing, even 10 years later. I have a yard filled with gravel and empty planters and am desperately trying to soften the aesthetic without killing myself. However no matter what I think I keep coming back to the fact that the gravel (or at least much of it) has to go. Maybe if it was pea gravel or something less coarse but it's so chunky and... bland for lack of a better word. Obviously whoever installed it had the right idea (save money and water) but ugh, I can't take it another minute. Those links that @amalgamation provided are super helpful. Thanks!!!

  • nhoblitt
    4 years ago

    I got rid of a pile of dirt in my front yard (about 5yrds worth) via craigslist. I just put up an ad with my cross streets and a picture of the pile and it was gone in a couple days. I know one of my coworkers did the same thing with the gravel in her front yard, she didn't even have to move any of it.

    If it were me I'd just plant trees where I wanted them, throw down a heavy layer of bark mulch on top of the gravel around the trees and leave the rest of it.

    As far as growing things goes, Phoenix and Tucson are not 100% interchangeable. Phoenix tends to be 10-15 degrees hotter than Tucson year round. So, if something grows well in Phoenix it should survive the summer heat in Tucson just fine, but it may not survive the winter freeze. Since Phoenix gets less chill than Tucson, fruit trees that are productive here in Tucson may not bear fruit in Phoenix even though they may grow just fine. Tucson gets around 600 chill hours on average, and I think Phoenix gets more like 350. If you plan on planting any stone fruit trees make sure you check how many chill hours your variety needs.

  • giulid
    last year

    Hello all. Simulate and different question:-)

    I have lots of gravel and am considering getting rid of it. A natural tucson garden /yard. I have problems with my bark/compost front yard.....grasshoppers!! Any comments on that? Also any comments on just getting down to a smooth natural hard dirt? Maybe with composite granite? Also how do you get TONS of weeds to stop growing/remove from gravel? Help!!!!

  • MaryMcP Zone 8b - Phx AZ
    last year

    Previous suggestions have pretty much covered how to get rid of gravel but for the weeds, it's more hard work. You can spray with RoundUp or something similar but then you have ugly dead brown weeds instead of live green weeds. :-| What I did was wet the area really well that I planned to work the next morning, then using a weed digger tool (long steel rod with a forked end) and pull 'em up. One hour I can do about a 6'x6' area.

    Best practice is, once the weeds are gone, apply a pre-emergent. There are several options and they last several months to a year. I've used Ground Clear with good result. I'm currently using Preen. I've not used it before so can't speak to how well it works until some time has passed. Good luck, it's tough, hard work. Best to keep them from growing to begin with. We have quarter-minus gravel in both yards as we have a huge lot and do not want to water and mow. I failed to act before those last rains with a pre-emergent so the weeds really took over. I hope to keep them at bay with the application of a pre-emergent.