How Poor People Get Rocks for Their Garden

Construction siteWhat do you see in this picture? A construction site? A huge pile of dirt? A convenient place for teenagers to make out?

Me… I see free rocks. I bet some people are going, “So, what’s so big about free rocks? Aren’t they just anyplace? Aren’t they free already? Aren’t they cheap as dirt?”

I don’t know when the last time those people had to buy dirt, but let me tell you, buying dirt is anything but cheap. Just ask anybody who has those hand spray painted signs out that read “Fill Dirt Wanted”. They don’t put those out for kicks. Dirt is damn expensive and rocks are doubly so.

Funny thing is that for as expensive as it is to buy dirt or rocks it is just as expensive to have someone haul them away. Someday, I envision that there will be a site where people can post their dirt and rock profiles and those in need of dirt and rocks will finally be able to connect with those who have some to share and the world will finally have enough free dirt and rocks for all.

Until then, I am just too poor to buy rocks. So I keep my eye out for places like this. Construction sites freshly dug with big ol’ rocks just laying around like gold for the taking. Frequently the construction site manager is just as happy to let you haul away all you would like. It is less they have to pay to have hauled away.

I use rocks all over my garden, to edge beds and for decoration. If you are really ambitious, you can build walls and the like as well. Buying rock for these projects… expensive. Hauling them away from a construction site… priceless, literally.

So there you go. You now have your frugal tip of the day. The only bad news is that with the housing boom over, the number of construction site will probably go down. It’s really a trade off. ‘Cause now the housing costs will come down, so maybe you can buy a house and afford to buy your rocks as well.

9 thoughts on “How Poor People Get Rocks for Their Garden
  1. Trell Johnson on

    Hi! I have an very effective technique for getting free rocks. I ask farmers if they are interested in some free rock picking.. I have yet to have a farmer turn me down, and the rocks you get from farm fields seem somehow more visually interesting.


  2. Rocks is a great idea, Sometimes I just pull over to the side of the road and load up. Their is this place in Folsom, CA that has great rocks.


    linners Reply:

    I would drive to Folsom for free rocks, its only an hour away! Don’t suppose you could name that road? 🙂


  3. Michelle in Michigan on

    I recently bought a house which has tons of rocks that have sunk in the ground and became covered with overgrowth. Hanna, how do you get the dirt completely off of the rock? Most of the rocks are dirt color unless I scrub them which is so labor intensive, it will take me years to build a 1′ high mini-wall around my berm.


    Robear Reply:

    Use a Hi-pressure washer! I found it works good in getting the rock clean, then put it out in the sun for a few weeks, letting the sun “bleach it.” It works great on granite.


    Michelle from Michigan Reply:

    Well thanks Robear! Your suggestion is MUCH better than the acid-loving ideas I’ve heard so far. Unfortunately, I don’t know anyone with a hi-pressure washer and my guess is purchasing one is expensive, since I know renting one costs a lot (a lot to me anyway). Your idea is the best I’ve heard yet though, so I’ll keep my eyes peeled! Thanks again!


  4. NorskeDiv on

    In St.Louis Missouri, if you just drive along the highway there are a number of places you can pick up rocks. Highway 270 has some deep cuts through the foot hills where sedimentary rocks progressively pile up as the cliffs erode each winter. If enough of them pile up the state has to come and remove the excess anyway. Just pull over well to the side and collect some. Sedimentary rocks make great construction material or pathway fodder as they break into flat layers during the freeze thaw cycle.

    Don’t loosen rocks from the cliffs as that speeds the erosion process and will tend to make more debris rocks. Just take the loose ones piled along the ground against the cliff. Also, I’m not talking about rocks that make up any part of the shoulder, but the rocks ten or twenty feet distant from the shoulder! While you’re there, do the environment and your fellow citizen a favor and pick up some trash, focusing on harmful things which can hurt wildlife like pieces of shredded tire or motor oil bottles. Just take a trash bag with you for that.


    NorskeDiv Reply:

    Technically, you do need a permit to collect said rocks, but I’ve never had a problem. I’ve gathered rocks like this over a dozen times for a community garden and for some HFH projects my Church worked on. I always wear my HFH shirt and hat. The one time a police officer stopped by they were just seeing if I needed help or was broken down (as I was pulled off the side of the highway), when I explained I was just collecting rocks for a habitat house he simply advised me to not remain by the edge of the highway too long.


  5. Michelle in Michigan on

    NorskeDiv, your first comment would seem like common sense, but GOOD THING you said it nonetheless! Also, if more folks had sense of commmon courtesy, the trash bag would also be a no-brainer, but for some, have to be taught as if they were children. Your second comment, you’re lucky you’re in MO where a policeman is kind and smart enough to be more concerned with your safety than local ordinances, but some communities here in Greater Metro Detroit Area, well, let’s just say you’d better have your paperwork handy! Some Oakland County communities are wanting to arrest people for just picking USEABLE stuff (which many in those well-to-do areas throw good things away simply because they’re remodeling) off of their curb where their trash is because some criminal broke in a house in their neighborhood. With the way things are around here, it seems that some local municipalities are trying to recoup any way they can – logical or not! Also, good for you and your community that your church and HFH is trying to make a difference! Detroit started doing community gardens again and I think it’s wonderful! Plenty of dilapidated homes to gather bricks from to make a nice border to hold raised garden beds in!


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