Building Garden Walls

Walls may be needed in the garden for protection or privacy, for dividing areas, or for retaining the soil where there are drops in level or steps. Whatever the function of garden walls, they can be turned into attractive features. But, however simple the construction, walling is not cheap.

Old or rustic bricks blend well in most gardens, and effective designs can be constructed of York, Somerset or Cotswold stone.


The strength of any wall depends on its foundation. Dig a shallow trench about 9 in. deep and a little wider than the wall is to be. Tip rubble into the trench and ram it well down, to make a 6 in. deep layer. Lay 2 to 3 in. of concrete on top and smooth roughly. (A suitable mixture for the concrete is: l part cement, 3-¼ parts sand, 5 parts shingle. If mixed ballast is used: l part cement, 6 parts mixed ballast.) The finished level of the foundation should allow the first course of walling to be just below soil level.

A wall constructed with slabs of stone can be built up in two ways: dry, or with cement bonding which will be needed if the wall is more than 3 to 4 ft. high. To bond a wall spread a layer of concrete about ¾ in. thick over each course of stone and place the next course in it, tapping each slab in place as the work proceeds. A joint should never be directly above a joint in the row beneath. As work proceeds, point or smooth the joints over with a trowel. Select stones for the bottom two courses from the largest pieces in the pile, to ensure that a really firm, strong base is provided.

A dry wall, constructed without cement, is ideal for low features. The same principles of stone selection and laying should be observed. Bed each course in a 2-in. layer of good loamy soil which should be packed thoroughly between the joints with a rounded stick.

A double thickness of brick makes a good solid wall. Make sure that each row of bricks is securely laid in a ½ to ¾ in. layer of mortar or cement. Bond the bricks as for walling stone, and check the level frequently with a spirit level.

A great deal of time can be saved in ensuring that each row of bricks is level if a brick is laid at each end of the row-first of all and, when completely straight and level, a length of strong twine is run between these two bricks, across their tops, to serve as a level along the length of the wall. This twine can be attached to two long nails inserted in a course of bricks lower down. Use a plumb line to keep the faces of the wall vertical.

Where high walls are required, it is not advisable to construct dry walls, as sufficient strength and rigidity can only be supplied by a concrete or mortar bonding. Walls more than 5 ft. high require buttresses every 15 ft. along the wall.

16. February 2012 by Dave Pinkney
Categories: Featured Articles, Garden Management, Gardening Calendar | Tags: , , , | Comments Off on Building Garden Walls


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