Stone Smart

By Sharon Naylor

July 18, 2013 5 min read

After a large landscaping project that utilized flat or round stones, such as the building of a landscape wall, rock wall border, stone patio, waterfall or koi pond, you might find yourself with a pile of leftover stones. You or your landscape expert wisely ordered more than you needed to ensure that you had enough stone for the project without having to buy more at a high cost to finish the job. This abundance of project stone is a smart idea. It gives your landscapers variety in stone shape and size and allows for coordinating stone colors as well as breakage.

Now you have a pile of leftover stones on your driveway, which means you get to use them in one or more additional design projects for no extra cost. The stones are yours. You paid for them and for their delivery. You now get to further enhance your landscaping, and here are some ideas of what to do with those leftover landscaping stones:

--Build a rock border around the trees in your yard. Trees need berms, or raised rings, around them to capture rainwater and deliver it to their roots for the tree's growth. When a sapling is established in the ground (more than six months) and doing well, it's eligible for a decorative ring of rocks arranged in a wide circle around its base. Why a wide circle? The tree's root system has grown and spread out now, and water needs to reach the entire root system, not just the roots by the trunk. Using flat stones like shale allows you to build a wall three or four rocks high to add extra appeal. With your rocks handset in a secure wall formation, without the need for "cementing" them together, fill in the center of the ring with fresh mulch, being careful not to let the mulch touch your tree's trunk. Since mulch holds moisture, which is the whole point of placing it in landscaping, that constant contact with wetness can rot your tree at the base and kill it.

--Build a rock border around bushes or plants that are close to the edge of your property. Using the same method as described above for a tree, arrange a ring of flat stones in layers to match the rock wall rings around your trees for a unified look. When you create a rock wall ring around plants at the edge of your property, neighborhood dogs will be less likely to urinate on your growing plants and bushes. Some pets don't like the smell or texture of mulch, so this easy DIY project can save your plants, as well.

--Add extra stones to your landscaping. Larger stones such as 1-foot round stones can be placed here and there on top of the mulch in your landscaping for visual appeal. "We had some white stones with marbling effects within our pallet of gray stones, so we placed those in our front landscaping where the white of the stones matched the white trim of our house," says Joe Toris, a homeowner and DIY enthusiast.

--Add extra stones to your rock-bordered fountains or pond. If the colors of your stones match or coordinate, fill in areas of your existing fountain or pond to make the layout even fuller and more impressive. The same goes for any rock garden arrangements you have established -- or use a collection of stones to fill in an empty space in your landscaping where you might have removed a bush or tree. This works best with round stones in an array of sizes.

--Use weighty flat stones for other purposes. If you cover your outside air conditioner unit with a plastic cover during the winter months and have experienced the hassle of a windstorm blowing that cover down the street, eliminate this problem by setting two of your weightier flat or round stones on top of the cover. Just be sure the rocks are not too heavy, or you could dent your air conditioner. The rocks will keep your cover from flying away, and you won't have to buy a new one in the middle of winter.

--Accent container plants or container gardens. If you have topiaries or other tall standing plants in containers, place one or more of your leftover stones in their pots for added visual flair.

You don't have to decide now. Leftover stones can be piled to the side of your driveway for use next year on a project that you envision later. When working with stones, though, the experts at Home Depot advise you to always wear sturdy protective gloves. Also, wear a back protection belt if you're carrying large or repeat loads of stones in a wheelbarrow. Repetitive strain can cause painful back injuries that last a long time, often requiring an ER visit and physical therapy. Even if rocks look light and manageable, it's the repetitive lifting, twisting and reaching to place and arrange stones that can cause injuries.

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