Building a Garden Wall

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  • 5-10 hours
  • Intermediate
  • 100-500
What You'll Need
Garden hose
Work gloves
Shovel
Soil tamper
Brick chisel
Wooden stakes
Level
String
Gravel or rock dust
Stackable concrete stones or bricks

Garden walls are both a useful and picturesque way to shape your landscape. Luckily, despite involving some heavy lifting, they’re relatively easy to create in your own outdoor space.

Garden Wall Foundation and Materials

Garden barriers need a strong foundation to stand year after year. While these walls are built from bricks or concrete stones, they should ideally stand on a concrete footing. A strong foundation will allow them to withstand the great amount of pressure walls bear from their own weight, and hold up to years of wear, tear, and potentially bad weather. Another way to create a sturdy wall is to lay the first layer of bricks or stones beneath ground level.

Layered patterns, referred to as bonds, can be used to create an extra durable, double-wythe structure. Most of these bonds require cutting.

When bricks or concrete stones are turned sideways to fit into the pattern of the wall, they’re called headers. When they are laid flat the regular way, they’re referred to as stretchers.

double width brick wall under construction

Step 1 - Plan the Wall

Before you actually get started building the wall, you need to decide on the location and layout. Check with your city’s utility office to learn about the location of any buried pipes or cables where you plan to dig for your wall (in America, you can call 811 to get this information from the Department of Transportation).

Use a garden hose to mark a line for your wall. Once you have it situated to your liking, use landscape marking paint to mark the layout lines for the project.

Step 2 - Dig the Trench

Dig a trench along the line you marked to start your installation. The trench should be a bit wider than the blocks or bricks you’ll use to build the wall. The entire first layer of blocks should be underground, so dig the trench deep enough to facilitate that. Tamp down the soil on the bottom of the trench using a soil tamper.

trench for a wall filled with gravel

Step 3 - Add Gravel or Rocks

Add a few inches of gravel or rock dust to the bottom of the length of the trench. Use your soil tamper to do one last go-round of tamping.

Step 4 - Lay the First Layer of Stones

Now it’s time to start laying your concrete blocks or bricks. Begin at the end that's either most visible within your landscaping or where the wall meets another structure. If your wall is along a slope, begin at the lowest point.

Place the first stone in the trench, taking care to ensure that it’s level on all sides. If you find that the stone is not level, remove it and add more gravel or dig the trench deeper as necessary.

To keep your stones level across the entirety of the wall as you lay the stones, hammer wooden stakes in the ground at each end of the wall layout line and the trench. Then, tie a string to each stake so that it is even across the top of the first stone that you laid. Level the string. This will serve as a guide to help you evenly lay the rest of this layer of stones.

After that’s done, continue laying the stones next to each other along the length of the trench. The first layer is key to a strong and successful wall, so check that each stone is level and laid correctly as you go.

hands laying stone into cement to build a wall

Step 5 - Add Additional Layers

Once the first layer is done, it’s time for another row. Each row will be offset from the one underneath it, so if the wall you’re building is straight on the ends, start it with a block that's been cut in half to facilitate this pattern. Continue layering stones in rows, offsetting the seams with every row and layer. As you continue layering, periodically stop to verify that the stones are level and secure. Repeat this process until your wall is the desired height.

Before you know it, your wall will be complete. It’s ready for you to backfill the area behind it and plant shrubs and flowers to further adorn your yard.