Landscaping with rocks allows gardeners to adapt the home landscape with native plants to limit maintenance and water use. Rocks work perfectly as a mulch layer in place of shredded mulch and also provide interesting texture as a garden bed cover. Using rocks and boulders to add design elements to the property also provides the opportunity to incorporate natural elements into the landscape.
Attack any weeds in the garden beds with a hoe before weeds reach maturity and begin to produce seeds. The use of inorganic mulches such as rock always creates a weed removal challenge for gardeners. Proper preparation of the garden bed before application of rocks will limit the need for future weeding. Rake the garden areas smooth after pulling as many weeds as possible.
Place a layer of weed barrier fabric over the garden bed by cutting appropriate lengths of the fabric with a sharp utility knife. Avoid plastic sheeting, as it won't allow water to seep into the soil for the plants you want to grow among your stone. Overlap areas by at least 4 inches to discourage stray weeds from sliding through the fabric. Weed-blocking fabric isn't 100 percent successful in preventing weeds but it will discourage many when coupled with a 2 to 3 inch layer of pea or river rock inorganic mulch.
Create a plus sign slice in the fabric for existing plants or places where you plan to plant flowers or shrubs. Fold back the edges under the fabric and flat to the ground. Add any new ornamental plants at this stage to make planting easier. Future additions of plants to the gravel-covered landscape bed will require removal of the rocks that can be time consuming.
Pour river rock or pea gravel onto the weed fabric to a depth of 2 to 4 inches to hide the fabric. Use a rake to level the rocks for a finished look.
Turn your attention to areas where you'll like to add rock accents to the landscape, such as in beds that use shredded organic mulch. Consider areas that will allow room for placement and will enhance the look of the garden. Slight slopes, corners and difficult growing areas provide excellent opportunities to add rocks.
Use the shovel to dig down a few inches into the soil where you want to place accent rocks. Place each accent rock in a natural looking position and fill in around the base of the rock. Mulch after placing all rocks to give the garden a finished appearance.
Add new plants to the landscape by tucking them up close to your rock formations. Many plants such as creeping phlox and sedum will trail gracefully over the rock, blending this decorative element into the landscape. Obviously, power equipment is required to move and place very large rocks or boulders.