Follow our steps to create a decorative rock wall to enhance your garden.
• Ledger stones
• Medium-sized gravel (sold at landscape supply stores and home improvement stores as Class II road base)
• Mason’s hammer
• Small sledge
• Safety glasses
• Wire mesh with 2-inch by 4-inch openings
• Masonry mix
The amount of materials will depend on the size of the wall you’re building. For this 2-foot-tall and 6-foot-long wall, we used 100 pounds of stones, 1/4 cubic yard of Class II road base, and four bags of masonry mix.
• This isn’t a retaining wall—it’s a decorative wall that should be no taller than 2 feet. Any taller than that, and you’d need to brace it to prevent collapse.
• When arranging stones, look carefully at each stone to determine which “face” looks best, then place that side facing outward. You may need to chisel stones to get them to fit neatly together.
• Always wear safety goggles when shaping stones.
• Wear gloves when doing this project to protect your hands from sharp edges on stones and wire.
Step 1: Dig trench and fill with gravel. Dig a trench about 6 inches wide, 4 inches deep, and as long as you want the wall to reach.
Pour in gravel until it’s about 1 inch lower than the top of the trench. Spread the gravel with a shovel to evenly distribute it.
Step 2: Compact the gravel. Step on the gravel to compact it. Bend wire at the bottom to create an L shape, so the horizontal part of the L is about 4 to 5 inches across and the vertical part is as tall as the wall you’re building.
Step 3: Mix and add masonry mix. Mix the masonry mix in a wheelbarrow or bin, following package instructions. Pour a 1/2-inch layer of masonry mix into one side of the trench, on top of gravel and wire. Smooth with a trowel.
Step 4: Add stones. Add the first stone on top of the masonry mix, pressing it down with your hands or tapping it with a small sledge to secure it in place (photo 4).
Continue across the row, adding a layer of masonry mix on top of the gravel, and the stones on top of the masonry mix. Stones should fit neatly together; chip off extra pieces with a mason’s hammer to change a stone’s shape and make it fit. It’s okay if the masonry mix looks unsightly on this layer, since it will be slightly below ground level and won’t be seen.
For the rest of the wall, add masonry mix at the back of the stone (toward the wire) so you won’t be able to see much masonry mix from the front.
Step 5: Create an appealing pattern. To add interest to the wall’s surface, break up the horizontal pattern in a couple places by placing a large, thin stone on its end instead of laying it flat (photo 7.) To support this stone from behind, sandwich other stones between the large, thin stone and the wire. Add a layer of masonry mix between them.
Continue working your way up the wall, alternating stones and layers of masonry mix toward the back, until you reach the top of the wire. Then spread one more layer of masonry mix and place long, narrow stones on top to finish off the wall. Use a level to make sure the top of the wall is level.
Step 6: Fill back side of wall. Fill in the back side of the wall with masonry mix. About 4 or 5 inches up the wall, poke holes in the masonry mix between stones every 12 inches or so. This allows water to drain through the wall.
Once masonry mix has dried, fill in about 12 inches of gravel behind the wall. Put a layer of landscape fabric on top of the gravel, and add soil on top of the landscape fabric until the area behind the wall is filled with soil. If you wish to add mulch, leave 2 to 3 inches on top of the soil for organic mulch such as wood chips or shredded bark.
Project by Gustavo Mora; text by Amy Sitze; photography by Tracy Walsh