The Best Way to Pick Rocks Out of Topsoil


Removing rocks, branches, clay clumps, twigs, leaves and roots from topsoil can be a time consuming and tiring process. While large stones can be easily set aside, topsoil is often filled with debris. This debris is best removed with a screening system. Using one or more screen frames, topsoil can be sifted through the screens into wheelbarrows or buckets and the debris can be discarded.

Step 1

Cut scrap lumber to create a frame that will fit over a wheelbarrow or 5-gallon bucket.

Step 2

Screw the frame together using long exterior deck screws and a power screw driver.

Step 3

Cut wire fencing, such as that for rabbit fence or any type of sturdy mesh type fence with openings that will allow dirt to pass but prevent rocks from passing through, to slightly larger than the opening of the frame. Use wire cutters to cut the wire.

Step 4

Nail the fencing to the frame with nails or staples using a hammer. Be sure to bend any ends over and nail them down so that they won't scratch you while you are working.

Step 5

Place the frame over the wheelbarrow so that the metal screen touches the top of the wheelbarrow.

Step 6

Scoop topsoil onto the screen. Move the soil around on the screen with your gloved hands. This will allow you to quickly sort debris from soil. It is often a good idea to have a coarse and a wide screen if you need even finer quality of topsoil for containers. After using the wide screen, re-screen the clean soil with the smaller screen and keep your fine topsoil separate from your main yard soil.

Things You'll Need

  • Scrap lumber
  • Table saw
  • Screws
  • Power screwdriver
  • Wire fencing
  • Wire cutters
  • Nails
  • Staples
  • Hammer
  • Wheelbarrow or bucket
  • Transfer shovel
  • Heavy duty gloves


  • Hammerzone: Building A Soil Sifter Screen
Keywords: remove rocks topsoil, screen topsoil, make topsoil screen

About this Author

F.R.R. Mallory is a senior at UC Berkeley completing degrees in both Neuropsychology and English. She has been published since 1996 in both nonfiction and fiction, books, short stories, articles and essays. Her fiction short story "Black Ice" recently won a National Space Society contest.