Learn which plants thrive in your Hardiness Zone with our new interactive map!

How to Prepare a Rock Bed

By Lisa Wampler ; Updated September 21, 2017

A rock bed is a way to create a low maintenance area in your yard that requires little to no work during summer months. A rock bed is either decorative in nature or it can be decorative and functional because it can help you eliminate water run-off issues. You can install a rock bed in just about any shape and size. Do not expect the installation process to be difficult but expect it to be labor intensive since you are working with large stones.

Measure out the area where you want to install the rock bed and place a stake in each of the four corners. A rock bed may be as long or as wide as you want. If you plan to resolve water drainage issues, position the rock bed so it starts where the water comes onto your property, then route the bed to the location where you want the water to end up.

Tie a string to the stakes to create an outline of the rock bed.

Dig out the area inside the strings until you reach a depth between 2 and 4 inches. Dig out the area. Once the dirt is dug, use a rake to rake out any rough areas in the soil, then tamp the ground with a metal tamper to create a solid surface to place your stones on.

Line the excavated area with landscaping fabric. Landscaping fabric prevents weeds from growing up into the rock bed but allows water to drain into the soil. Overlap each piece of landscaping fabric by at least 12 inches.

Remove the string and stakes from the area.

Outline the excavated area with larger stones such as large pieces of sandstone. Use a pickaxe to break up larger pieces of stone so they easily fit together. You may locate large rocks in your own yard, or you may purchase large rocks from a home-and-garden center.

Place a layer of smaller stones such as river gravel into the rock bed between the large stones. The smaller rock acts as the filtering media for water runoff.


Things You Will Need

  • Tape measure
  • Stakes
  • String
  • Shovel
  • Rake
  • Tamper
  • Landscaping fabric
  • Large stones
  • Small stones


  • Depending on the size of the stones you use, you may need to employ the use of a rock sled, cart or dolly to help you maneuver rocks into place. At the least, you should employ the help of a friend while you install the larger rocks that will line the rock bed.


  • Avoid placing a rock bed under large trees. During the fall, the area covers with leaves and creates a lot of work for you.