The more hectic everyday life becomes, the more important the garden becomes as a place of retreat and a source of relaxation for people. Here the hobby gardener can realize his creative ideas; no matter whether it is a kitchen garden, an ornamental garden or a combination of both. A garden wall offers an excellent opportunity to set accents, to create a privacy screen or to provide more variety in the visual effect by terracing. With a little manual skill, it is not that difficult to build a garden wall yourself.
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Build your own drywall
It is probably the oldest form of garden wall, as it was created in monastery and cottage gardens in the Middle Ages, long before the invention of cement and mortar. The benefits of drywall speak for themselves. Only natural materials are used, such as limestone or sandstone. It creates a habitat for useful animals and beautiful plants. While a sober concrete wall becomes increasingly unsightly over the years, natural stones become more attractive with age. The following materials are required:
- natural stones
- Rubber hammer
There are no limits to the imagination when choosing natural stones. Rock that is typical for the respective landscape is preferably used. If the layered masonry is to look as regular as possible later on, choose worked natural stones of the same size. An extremely natural look can be achieved with a quarry stone wall, in which unprocessed stones of different sizes are processed. Before the hobby gardener actually gets to work, the decision must be made as to how high the wall should be, because this is what the material requirements and dimensions for the foundation are based on.
Like any solid masonry, a drywall needs a foundation. A 40 cm deep ditch is dug for a 1 m high garden wall. If the wall crown is planned to be 40 cm wide, the experienced hobby gardener calculates a run-up of around 10% to 12% of the wall height for the front and back. In this case, the base of the wall would be about 64 cm wide. Now the trench for the foundation is filled with an approx. 30 cm thick layer of gravel, on which a 10 cm thick layer of sand is spread. In order to compact this foundation, it is advisable to use a rammer.
From now on, a combination of creativity and muscle power is required, because the actual construction of the dry wall begins. The provided stones are stacked on top of each other like a vertical jigsaw puzzle. It is advisable to choose the largest possible stones for the bottom row, because this has to carry the entire weight. If you want to create a lot of variety in the appearance of the garden wall, take every 3 to 5 stones of a different size so that there is no continuous joint. It is particularly important that the stones are firmly wedged together and no longer move. Should it be necessary, small cavities are filled with gravel, because the earth would be washed out again over time. Ideally, two layers of stone are built one after the other, stabilized with elongated stones as connectors.
Perennials can already be inserted into the dry stone wall during construction. The stone gaps in question must open backwards. Take the perennial out of the plant pot and put it wet in a mixture of gravel and earth in the gap. Experts assume that about 50% of the plants grow successfully.
By the way, a dry stone wall is very well suited as a slope structure in the garden. Unlike a palisade, it withstands the pressure of the slope and allows water to seep through.
Build a natural stone wall yourself
If you prefer to build the garden wall evenly and don’t want to do without the stability that cement and mortar offer, you will find instructions for the construction below. Hobby gardeners who have already gained experience in handling cement mix it themselves. It is easier to buy a ready-made concrete mixture in a hardware store, which is then only mixed with water according to the manufacturer’s instructions. This also applies to the mortar that is later required for the actual wall construction. The following materials and tools should be available:
- cement mixer
- joint iron
- Mason Hammer
A natural stone wall cannot do without a foundation. This should be at least 80 cm deep to be frost-proof. Once the trench is dug, the concrete for the foundation is mixed, and a mixer can be very helpful. The concrete is poured into the trench and spread evenly. If you rent a cement mixer for this job, you should also take a rammer with you, because it compacts the concrete in the trench without any problems. The level of the foundation is checked using a spirit level and adjusted if necessary. Then the concrete has to dry.
Now it’s time to build the natural stone wall. As with dry stone walls, the base of the wall is slightly wider than the top of the wall. A guide is now drawn. The first row of stones is placed on the distributed mortar and hammered down with a bricklayer’s hammer. For the next row of bricks, the mortar is spread on the bottom row. If you work with integral mortar, you can press it into the joints in the same operation using the jointing iron. If another type of mortar is used, grouting is done when the wall is finished. Natural stones in different sizes provide more variety in the look.
The practiced hobby gardener decides in advance how the natural stones will ultimately be installed. In this way, two rows of narrow stones can be built one behind the other at a distance of 30 cm to 40 cm, with the space in between being filled with concrete. Another variant is the arrangement of the stones in a block bond, as is usual when building houses. The respective layers alternate lengthwise and crosswise. The width is 11.5 cm in the longitudinal bond and 24 cm in the finished block bond. Don’t forget to check the horizontal alignment again and again and to stretch a guide line for each new row.
If a separate work step is planned for grouting, it can be started when the wall has dried. When the time comes, all loose mortar is first removed and the wall is thoroughly scrubbed with a strong brush. If there are small holes, these are immediately filled with mortar. This measure is of great importance, because even in the smallest hole, water accumulates when it rains. The painstakingly created joint bursts open as soon as the first frost hits.
Air lime mortar is very well suited for grouting because it contains a small amount of cement and is therefore more durable. If this is stirred, the consistency plays a major role. Mortar that is too dry does not seal the joints properly; Mortar that is too wet sags again and leaves grooves. An earth-moist consistency is therefore ideal. Now the wall is moistened by spraying it with a water hose. The joint mortar is then pressed into the joints with a bricklayer’s trowel and then smoothed out. In an optimal joint, the filling does not recede more than 1 mm behind the stones.
An impregnated garden wall withstands wind and weather even better. The impregnation works just as well with organic silicone resins as with inorganic silicate materials, which can be purchased cheaply in the nearest hardware store. As soon as the wall is dry to the touch, work can begin. Good products are lightfast, offer high water vapor permeability, do not shine and dry tack-free. Ideally, the impregnation is applied with a brush.
Now the self-built garden wall is almost finished. Only a decorative mural crown is missing. There are numerous variants available for this purpose. You can cover the wall with sheets of aluminum or copper. Shapely prefabricated concrete parts and stone slabs that are fastened with mortar are also available on the market. Experienced craftsmen form the wall cornices like a small pitched roof with shingles. So that the rain can drain off the wall, the top of the wall is about 3 cm wider than the wall itself.
If you want to build a garden wall made of natural stone yourself, you have plenty of imaginative design options. With a little skill and practical instructions, this project can also be done by the hobby gardener.
Make a garden wall out of gabions
In modern gardens they can be found more and more often, the garden walls made of gabions. They serve as privacy screens, keep the wind out and are a real eye-catcher. Gabions are galvanized wire baskets filled with stones that offer plenty of scope for wall design. Gabions and matching galvanized steel posts can now be purchased cheaply in many hardware stores and other sources. The following materials and tools should be available:
- Gabions (mesh size 50 x 100 mm)
- galvanized steel posts
- C brackets
- stones to fill
- Tension anchors
- precast concrete
In the first step, foundation holes are drilled with the auger, which are about 40-50 cm deep and 25 cm in diameter. The posts are straightened in these holes. Then ready-mixed concrete is added and the posts are grouted. The distance between the posts is 100 cm, using one post for each wire basket and two at the end of the wall.
The gabions are now placed around the posts. These are best pre-assembled with the C-clamps so that the assembly can be done more quickly. A foundation is not required in this case. While the construction is being assembled, it is advisable to use the spirit level from time to time to check the alignment.
Now the stones are filled into the gabions. Basalt, granite, greywacke, quartz or broken marble are best suited for the filling. If you want to achieve a particularly even appearance, you can fill in the stones piece by piece by hand. Tension anchors, which are inserted between the wire walls during filling, ensure more stability for this garden wall. Imaginative hobby gardeners insert weatherproof lighting between the stones while they are placed in the gabion baskets.
Incidentally, not only individual garden walls can be created with gabions. If you set the height appropriately low, you can attach a wooden seat to it and in no time at all conjure up a garden bench that invites you to linger.
There are numerous variants to choose from, from dry stone walls to natural stone walls and gabion walls. The range of possibilities is so diverse that there is something suitable for every need and every budget. It is not child’s play to build a garden wall yourself; however, a specialized expert is not required either. With practical instructions, even a skilled hobby gardener can build the garden wall on his own.