Garden Tip Number 2937

How come rocks are never where you want them? They're always on the wrong side of the fence. Those who have them don't want them and, those who don't have them would die to get their hands on them. And even in the rare case where the landscaper both has the rocks and wants them, they're never quite where they're needed. In terms of things most home landscapers would rather not be doing, moving rocks ranks right up there with digging holes in caliche.

Frank Christ, a Master Gardener who is busy with the Sisyphean task of landscaping around his new home, has done more than just comply about this situation. He actually did something about it. When he needed to get some big rocks for accent pieces - the kind that are just too large for one person to handle alone - he designed a two man rock lifter so that he and a partner could load those big rocks in his Land Cruiser and transport them home.

Frank had a local welder fabricate the lifter out of half-inch square stainless steel tubing. Although I don't know what the theoretical edacity of the device is, it is considerably more than two ordinary men can comfortably lift. I calculated the weight of one of the larger rocks we lifted at about 215 pounds, and I believe Frank has collected some that are even larger. One serendipitous feature of the design is how well it fits in a standard contractor's wheel barrow. My son and I discovered this while using the lifter to move some rocks around the yard.

The lifter is basically a box with handles. The bottom of the box can be any size, although an 18 to z24 inch square base with a bar across the middle is probably large enough (the 215 pound boulder I mentioned above was only about 19 inches long by 15 inches across) The bar across the middle of the bottom keeps smaller rocks from falling through. The handles need only be large enough to fit your hand, but making them long enough to straddle a wheel barrow facilitates moving rocks locally around the yard.

The technique for using the lifter is simple. Place the device on the ground next to the rock to be lifted. Roll or slide the rock into the lifter and hoist away. After the rock is carried to its site, the lifter can be lowered to the ground and the rock rolled off. An alternative method is to flip the rock off the lifter from carrying height. The latter method should only be attempted by highly conditioned, athletic types like Frank and myself. Two hundred pound rocks can do a bit of damage to the toes.

Gary Gruenhagen
August, 1994