Storybook Rock Project

Have you ever read the book “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie?” This project went just like that. A simple request from Melissa for me to move a few sedum plants from the side to the back of the house turned into a summer long project. It was more than my “project ADHD” that kept me from getting it done, too. Each step I took led me to complete another intermediate task before I could resume the plant moving.

The project started easily enough. Sedum, by nature, has very shallow roots, which is good because the previous owners planted it ON TOP of the landscaping plastic. It is not the ideal method for healthy growth, but they were easy to dig up. Small victory. The project went downhill when I tried to replant them in the backyard.

The harmless looking plant that started it all

As I cleared away the rock to plant the sedum, the problems started. Over the years, it appears the fill around the house has settled. How do you fix that? Previous homeowners decided to add more rock! Next to the house there was anywhere from 8”-20” of rock, and near the edge of the landscaping there was about 3”. Not quite the slope you want around your house.

Not a very wide space for that much slope

As I stared at the mess I had found, it occurred to me that there has always been a slightly musty smell in one of the bedrooms in the lower level of our house. It was disclosed when we bought the house that there had once been a leak in the foundation of that bedroom, but they had it professionally repaired. We even have the receipts to prove it. Not too surprising, I was standing in front of that repair while looking into one of the lowest points in the fill. The wall looked good, but the backfill work was awful.

The only area I remembered to take a picture of
The only area I remembered to take a picture of

This was the starting point of a summer of shoveling rock. Yippee! It was a long process. Dig out the rock, remove the plastic, use fill to build the correct slope, replace the plastic, and finally put some of the rock back. There were a couple problems with this process. Where to put the rock while I am trying to re-grade the fill? Where to get enough fill? What to do with the extra rock when I am done?


I worked through the backyard portion of the project by moving and piling the rock in another flowerbed as I went. I used some extra dirt I had from a previous project for fill. When I was done with the backyard, I had about 1/4 yard of extra rock. Not too bad, I thought. I can easily spread that throughout the other rock areas. Maybe I had just panicked earlier with all my questions and doubt.

My big rock moving helper
My big rock moving helper

I decided I should check around the rest of the house to see how bad it was, hoping it would be just as easy as the portion already completed. Unfortunately, it was not. It was worse! Time to put on my creative problem solving thinking cap. Now I needed more fill, and would have more extra rock. I could have more fill delivered, but I knew it would be a long process to shovel it around my yard, and I had no interest in dealing with the pile all summer. Besides, I am cheap.

Melissa and I have talked about adding rock to the landscaping around the perimeter of our backyard for a while. We thought it would beautify the planting and pergola, and make upkeep much easier. And so, my brilliant (to me), and cheap, idea was born. Steal dirt from the back, and replace it with the extra rock. Both problems solved with minimal cost. One big downside was that it caused me to handle much of the rock an additional time, which is never fun. Again, yippee!

All this rock from the window well to the corner
All this rock from the window well to the mum

I was able to complete a majority of the work during the early summer months but I needed to wait until fall when the shrubs started to die back in a few areas. This project went on the back burner waiting for fall. In the meantime, I had several other projects to attack. My project list is never short enough that I fear running out of things to do.

While I was working on these other projects, I noticed that our sump pump seemed to run much less often. In years past, it would run occasionally for a couple days after a heavy rain as water seeped in. Not this summer. It only ran a couple times all summer. Nothing like immediate proof showing this was a project that indeed needed to be completed.

This is the spare rock from the window well to the mum
This is the spare rock from the window well to the mum

As fall approached and the shrubs started to go into hibernation, I was able to finish the work around the house. After I finally completed this project, I had created roughly 1.5 yards of extra rock. That should be enough to cover the flowerbed area in the backyard. Now I just need to complete some finishing work in those beds before I can spread all the rock. Looks like this project will continue into next year. I wonder what surprises I will find then.

If you give a mouse a muffin…