Rocks can add a lot of personality to your garden. You might want large rocks to outline your flower beds and garden path, or you can get smaller rocks to go around bushes. No matter what kind of rocks you need, you probably don’t want to pay for them and wonder where I can get free rocks for my garden.
There are several ways you can get free rocks for your garden. You can find a public land near you that allows rock collection, ask a farmer, search Craigslist and similar sites, or try a construction site.
My wife asked me where we can get rocks for our garden, and I went into search mode. Of course, you can buy rocks of any kind, but there are also different ways to get them for free. So let’s go over some of the ways you can get free rocks for your garden.
There are almost a quarter of a million acres of public land you can get rocks from. According to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), rocks, minerals, and semiprecious gemstones may be collected on public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management, but there are some constraints, including:
- Personal Use – The specimens are for personal use and are not collected for sale, barter, or commercial purpose(s).
- Reasonable amount – You may collect reasonable amounts of specimens. For example, in Arizona, “reasonable” limits for personal use as up to 25 pounds per day, with a total limit of 250 pounds per year –That’s a lot of rocks!
- Limits for recreational sites or areas – Another constraint is that collection does not occur in developed recreation sites or areas (more on this below), unless designated as a rockhounding area by BLM.
So, how do you find public lands that allow a reasonable amount of rocks? The BLM site has a search page where you can search by location, activities, and keyword. The BLM manages over 245 million acres of public land. So, you are bound to find one near you.
However, you can’t just collect rocks in any public land. These are some of the rules and limits on recreational sites or areas:
According to the National Park Service, “Collecting, rockhounding, and gold panning of rocks, minerals, and paleontological specimens, for either recreational or educational purposes is generally prohibited in all units of the National Park System.” You are subject to criminal penalties if you do that. So, I would stay away from national parks if you are going to collect rocks.
According to Rockhound Resource, just a handful of State Parks allow some collection of rocks. So, if you live in California, Michigan, New Mexico, Ohio, Tennessee, or Vermont, you will have a chance to collect some rocks legally. However, in most other states, it is illegal. So, ask a state park ranger before you go hunting for rocks.
According to the USDA Forest Service, a limited collection (up to 10 pounds) of rocks and minerals can be collected for personal use on most national forests. This may sound encouraging, but 10 pounds is not a lot of rocks, but it is a start.
But realize that there is plenty of undeveloped public land to get quite many rocks from. Just search the BLM page above to find an area near you.
Ask a Farmer
If you live near farms, you can ask a farmer if you can remove rocks from their fields. They might even have some rocks that they have collected already and are ready to be hauled away. If you find the right farm, they may actually pay you for doing that.
Rock collecting is an activity that most farmers have to do, and it wastes their time. Modern farms typically have specialized machines to collect rocks, but there is always a need to collect the old-fashioned way, as this video from How Farms Work demonstrates.
Craigslist and Similar Sites
People also list free rocks on Craigslist or other sites, and they will let you take them away for free.
I just searched for free rocks in Craiglist for my area and got a few people who had rocks available for pick up for free, as you can see from the screenshot below.
You can also make your own post that tells people you are willing to haul away rocks. You should be specific about the size and type you are looking for, and let them know how many you want. If you are upfront, you are likely to get a response from people who want you to take their rocks away for free.
As usual with these sites, you have to be careful who you are dealing with in terms of personal security.
Construction sites may be another choice. If they are doing excavation work, you can ask the construction foreman for any rocks they have uncovered. They will often find a number of different large rocks, and they are usually happy to get rid of them.
The issue that I find with this option is that construction sites are prompt to accidents. Construction companies are concerned about liability if something happens to you while you are on the site. So, you may not be welcome in most construction sites, but it doesn’t hurt to ask.
How Much Do Landscaping Rocks Cost?
Landscaping rocks can be expensive if you have to buy them. According to Home Advisor, these are some of the price ranges you may expect:
- River Rock: $100 – $800 per ton or $0.05 – $0.35 per pound
- Lava Rock: $75 per ton or $7 per bag
- Decorative: $40 – $500 per ton
- Large Boulders: $100 – $600 per ton
The price depends on size, shape, color, whether the stone is polished, quantity and location. If you plan it well and find a nice place to get your rocks for free, you can save a lot of money.