How To Remove Rocks From A Yard Before Mowing The Lawn?

Rocks, sticks, and tree roots represent a major threat to your lawnmower blades. Thinner lawnmower blades and plastic lawnmower blades like you sometimes find in a robotic lawnmower can crack, chip, and even shatter when they contact hard objects hiding in the long grass of your turf. Even the most robust steel lawnmower blades can be severely dulled by contacting an accidental stick or a rock.

Rocks in particular represent the biggest threat to a lawnmower blade and other cutting deck components. A large rock can crack, chip or even fracture a lawnmower blade. Though a small rock also poses a major threat. Especially if you have a side discharge lawnmower that happens to eject a small rock toward your home, a pet, or another person.

How Do Rocks Get Into My Yard?

Rocks lay deep in the layers of soil under your turf. Some have been there for decades or perhaps centuries! Water and the natural freeze-thaw cycle of the seasons can gradually force rocks up through the soil layers to emerge in the turf. The roots of fast-growing mature trees can also help accelerate the process. Even if you combed your lawn in the spring for rocks and sticks, it’s still possible for new rocks to gradually emerge in your lawn throughout the summer season.

It’s also worth noting that heavy rains can compact turf and soil over time. A large rock that was right at the surface when the snow melts could suddenly become a real obstacle by the end of the summer. When your lawnmower’s wheels pass over the area, a large rock like this could be exposed enough to make contact with the blades causing severe damage to them and the cutting deck.

Rocks Are More Likely Near Landscaping Features

Errant rocks are more likely to be found near landscaping features, retaining walls, and planting beds. Especially if you have rocks covering the drain tiles surrounding your house. Sometimes rocks that are being used as landscaping mulch can be knocked out of a planting bed to land deceptively in your turf.

Though things like retaining walls and other heavy landscaping features can also cause gradual compaction of the subsoil layers. As time goes by, it can cause rocks to be forced up through the layers of the turf to surprise your lawnmower blades in the worst way. Small rocks ejected from a side discharge lawnmower can ricochet off a retaining wall to cause severe injury!

Even if you are diligent about checking and clearing rocks from your lawn each spring, it’s still a good idea to do a quick walk-through inspection of your landscaping beds and retaining walls before each mowing session.

How To Remove A Large Rock From Your Lawn

Let’s say that heavy rains, the freeze-thaw cycle, or soil compaction has allowed a large rock to emerge from the surface to become a real threat to your lawnmower blades. While you might be able to steer around this size obstacle, it really is best to remove it.

The first step is to explore the dimension of the rock with a spade shovel or a stout ice chisel. If you are dealing with a true boulder of epic proportions, it might be better to spread a cubic yard or two of soil over the rock or create a landscaping feature that hides it. A truly massive boulder may need expensive heavy equipment rental to safely remove and dispose of it.

Let’s say that you’re just dealing with a modest boulder the size of a bowling ball or two. This type of rock can usually be worked out with hand tools. Just don’t over-estimate the strength of a wood or even fiberglass handled spade shovel. You can use a spade to clear away the soil, but when it comes time to actually leverage the rock out of the soil, you’ll want a solid iron digging bar or an ice chisel.

Removing Small Rocks From Your Lawn

Even though boulders garner the largest concern, even small rocks can be an issue. If you’ve noticed a problem with rocks in your lawn in the past, it’s good to give it an extra pass every month or two to see if new rocks have managed to work their way up through the layers of your turf.

Bringing the right tools with you when you patrol your yard is key! When you go out to look for sticks before you mow, bring a wheelbarrow with you, and some essential tools, like a garden hoe and a sturdy garden rake. While you’re picking up sticks, keep a keen eye out for rocks. Most can be picked out by hand or with stout garden tools. Then you can drop them in the wheelbarrow along with the sticks you find.

Can A Dethatcher Remove Rocks From The Lawn

Dethatchers are essentially a special type of yard raking and aerating device. They were originally intended to poke holes in your turf and remove dry grass clippings known as thatch. It’s a great way to loosen the turf to let more air, water, and nutrients in. Many are tow-behind devices that you can hook to the back of a riding lawnmower, and go for a casual drive around the lawn.

Of course, a dethatcher or lawn aerator can also expose small to medium size rocks. Many people who aerate their lawn with a dethatcher will find a rock or three the next time they mow. Rather than seeing it as an inconvenience, you should think of it as an opportunity.

You should expect rocks to be turned up every time you dethatch or aerate your lawn. Especially in the spring when the freeze-thaw effect starts to push them closer to the surface. You can keep an eye out for them as you go back and forth. It might also be a good way for the kids to earn some of their allowances!


Picking rocks out of your lawn is never going to catch on as a fun family hobby. Yet it’s worth the time to keep out a keen eye around landscaping features, and plan to find rocks after every time you dethatch. Just a few extra minutes out of your day can go a long way toward preventing major lawnmower damage and serious injuries.


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