Tag: hardscaping

Fence Wire Trellis

I’ve taken advantage of vertical surfaces in my small vegetable garden to grow more plants. This simple fence wire trellis enables me to grow blackberries above my strawberry patch. Fence Wire Trellis


  • (7) 5 inch half threaded eyelet screws
  • measuring tape
  • permanent marker
  • 20 gauge 4 strand galvanized wire
  • wire cutters
  • drill

On the backside of a fence select two posts to attach the eyelet screws to.

Mark each post for (3) eyelet screws. The screws should be lined up top to bottom and parallel with the partner screw on the opposite post.

Adding Eyelet ScrewMark a spot for an eyelet screw that is centered between the 2 posts and between the top and bottom screws on the posts.

Pre-drill holes and insert eyelet screws. By using the type that is half threaded you can extend the wire further out from the fence, which will give your plants better circulation.

Wire Through Eyelet ScrewNow thread the wire through the eyelets, outlining a rectangle between the posts and crisscrossing through the center eyelet. With the trellis in place you can weave your vine back behind the wire.

This trellis will work for grapes, roses, raspberries, or anything else that requires a little support.

Dry Stack Retaining Wall

The Garden Home Retreat sits on a hill that slopes toward the Arkansas River. This feature of the landscape offers a breathtaking view, but also creates a challenge of controlling soil erosion when designing a garden.

When looking for a solution to this dilemma I simply followed the advice of English poet Alexander Pope and consulted the "genius of place."

Between the mid-19th and mid-20th centuries the land had been used as a farm and traces of the terraces built back then can still be seen today. These lines etched into the landscape gave me a series of contours to follow for building a series of dry stack retaining walls. This terracing creates broad sweeps of level ground, an elegant solution for gardening on a hillside.

I chose to use dry stack stone walls for their historic appeal and for a few practical reasons as well. Dry stack walls are built without mortar, the stones are stacked one on top of the other. This makes them naturally draining, which is important when using a wall to retain soil. There is no need to build a foundation below the frost line because the loose stones can shift slightly to accommodate frost heave. This flexibility also means the wall is not subject to frost damage. And best of all, the dry stack method is less expensive than mortar-based walls, which appeals to my frugal nature.

I chose Course Doctors out of Flat Rock, North Carolina to install the dry stack walls at the Garden Home Retreat. I had come into contact with this company while working on a local landscaping project. I got to know their team of experts firsthand and was very pleased with their stone work. Their specialty is golf course construction and renovation, so I knew that the 425 feet of wall that I needed would be right up their alley.

Of course not all dry stack wall projects are this extensive. For smaller constructions the process is straightforward enough to do on your own, but there are a few things you should know before you get started.

  • Dry stacked stone walls are usually constructed against a hillside. Though, freestanding walls are stable up to about 3 feet in height.
  • Stone is sold by the ton on wooden pallets. The stone yard will offer delivery service if needed.
  • When you order the stacking stone also purchase crushed stone for leveling your foundation trench and for filling in gaps. This material is also called stone screenings, stone dust or fines.
  • There are 3 basic shapes of stone: round field stone, relatively flat stacking stones and uniformly cut dressed stone. Each shape will give you a different looking wall. Try to match the style of the stone with the style of your home and garden. For instance, a dressed stone wall is very formal and would be out of place in a rustic setting.
  • Essential tools for the project: level, string, wooden stakes, long handled shovel, hammer, chisel, wheel barrow or garden cart, level, gloves.
  • Useful tools to have on hand: back brace, knee pads, sledge hammer for large stones, tiller.
  • Each layer of a dry stack wall is called a course.
  • When putting your wall together mix the stone sizes throughout the wall rather than using only large stones at the bottom and small toward the top.

Here are the basic steps involved in building a dry stack stone wall.

  1. Draw the wall to scale and measure the length and height. Most stone walls are about 1 foot wide so when making your calculations you can assume this measurement. This step will help you calculate the amount of stone you will need.
  2. Visit a stone yard, select and order your stone.
  3. Measure and outline the wall using wooden stakes and string.
  4. Dig a trench of anywhere from 6 inches to 1 foot deep and 2 to 3 inches wider than the base of the wall.
  5. Fill the trench with crushed stone up to the soil line to create a level foundation.
  6. Lay one course at a time, fitting the stones closely together. Offset each course so that there are no large vertical spaces in the wall. Fill in gaps with crushed stone or dirt.
  7. Reserve an amount of large, very flat stones to use as capstones to top off the wall.

Good to Know: The Course Doctor’s Expert Advice on Constructing a Dry Stack Wall.

  1. The choice of rock is very important. Angular, flat, stacking stones are much easier to work with than round field stones.
  2. For the long term stability cut your foundation trench into native soil rather than loose bedding soil. The native soil is less likely to move around or settle.
  3. For walls that are above 3 feet tall you want to create a 3 to 4 inch lean back into the soil. Do this by stacking each progressive layer about 1/2 an inch back. This will prevent the soil pressure behind the wall from pushing the stones out over time.

Retaining Walls

While some homeowners prefer property that is as flat as a pancake, as a garden designer, I find
that a few ups and downs add an appealing interest to a garden. However, steep hillsides can limit
your gardening options and create drainage and maintenance problems. Whether you are faced with a
challenging hillside, an uneven backyard or just want to add some new contours to your garden,
retaining walls are a helpful tool in reshaping your landscape.

Define the term

Retaining walls are different from freestanding garden walls because they are designed to contain
the weight of soil pushing against them. Depending on the steepness of the slope and the height of
the wall, the pressure on the wall can be significant, especially when the force of heavy rains or
melting snow is added. It’s important to take those factors into consideration when designing the
wall to make sure it will be stable and long lasting.

Study your terrain

retaining wall herb garden
Before modifying your property, study the current drainage patterns and soil types. Seemingly
innocent grading and minor construction can trigger astonishing changes that may result in severe
soil erosion or water pooling up against foundations of buildings. Be aware that many sites slope
in more than one direction and may not incline at a uniform rate, but are undulating or rolling.

Inquire about codes

As you consider re-contouring various areas, save yourself some time and trouble by checking into
your local area’s building codes. Many municipalities require building permits for retaining walls.
Also, find out how close to the property line you may build and if you’ll need concrete footings or
steel reinforcements. Simple, low retaining walls on gently sloping, stable ground are manageable
do-it-yourself projects. A taller wall with grading and code requirements may require professional

Create unity

moss garden with stone retaining walls
The best wall designs not only help create more useable areas to enjoy, but they enhance the style
of your home and garden. One way to achieve that look is to use materials that repeat or complement
your home’s architectural style. The spectrum of wall materials available is enormous; there are
wood walls made from ties or boards, dry stack walls from stones, modular concrete blocks that lock
together, mortared walls from brick, stone or concrete block, as well as poured concrete walls with
or without stone veneers. While it is tempting to buy “off the shelf” materials offered at building
centers, the right choice for your home may be something different. For instance, if you have a brick
home, using the same color and style of brick in the retaining wall helps create a visual connection
between your garden and home. Natural stone works well for a Craftsman cottage while pressure
treated wood and used railroad ties would add rustic charm to a cabin.

Make more than walls

With a little imagination, retaining walls can do more than just hold soil in place. They can be an
exciting design element, adding texture and depth to your garden. To explore the possibilities, visit
public gardens, look through magazines or pick up design literature from suppliers for some creative
ideas. I’ve used retaining walls in my designs to create a sense of enclosure for outdoor rooms, shape
the outlines of cascading water features, create pathways on a sloping hillside, group plantings in
framed beds and to add curb appeal to a home’s entry. On extreme slopes, tall, imposing walls, can be
highlighted with built in planting pockets, or softened with cascading varieties of plants that tumble
over the top. When steps are combined with retaining walls both are enhanced: the steps break up the
wall’s expanse, and the walls adds interest to the stairway.

Highlight with plants

flower garden behind a retaining wall
For any garden, on the slope or terraced with retaining walls, you should select plants that appeal to
you and that are adapted to your climate and growing conditions. Often, you are dealing with
less-than-ideal soil, so add organic matter to give your plants a better chance at taking hold. If your
site is difficult to get to and makes maintenance challenging, consider plants that demand little care,
such as a mix of low, spreading shrubs or plants that develop dense or wide-spreading roots to help
stabilize the soil. A cascade of flowers and foliage adds charm to any retaining wall. There are many
plants that billow, trail or climb. To add appeal to a dry wall made from staked stone, try planting in
the crevices. Many small plants, including rock garden plants are good choices.

Great Plants for Retaining Walls

Mosaic Entry Pad

If you want to give texture, pattern and rhythm a try in your garden, here’s a project you’ll be interested in. I created an entry pad into my garden using stone, bricks and river rocks as well as concrete and grout. It’s the perfect way to accent an entrance into a cottage style garden.


  • 2-inch x 4-inch lumber pieces cut to fit the interior perimeter of you entry pad
  • Shovel
  • Ready mix bags of concrete
  • River rocks
  • Bricks
  • Stones
  • Level and leveling tools
  • Masonry trowel

Special grout mix:(For River Rock, Stone & Brick)

  • 1 part portland cement (1 bag)
  • 1 part masonry cement (1 bag)
  • 2 parts sand (15 scoops)

For stones and brick mix special grout mix to the consistence of cake batter. For river rock mix to the consistency of cookie dough.

Digging Out The Area
Concrete and Stone Edge
Adding Rocks
Mixed Entry Pad


  1. Start by digging out an area about 6 inches deep. Then place the 2 by 4 boards around the inside walls of
    have the area you have dug out. This will hold the concrete in place. Keep in mind that ready mix bags of
    concrete are available at hardware stores or home improvement centers.
  2. Once you pour the concrete into the hole, level it out so that it is about 2 inches deep, leaving 4 inches
    of space for you to add your stones and bricks so that they will be flush with the ground once the pad is
  3. Allow the concrete to sit overnight.
  4. Next remove the 2-inch x 4-inch boards.
  5. Now it is time to place the bricks and stone. Begin by placing a layer of grout down for your stone border.
    Set the stone and grout in between.
  6. Next create a pattern with your bricks. Secure with grout.
  7. Allow these elements to sit overnight and then fill the remaining spaces with river rocks and grout.

Hedge Entry Arch

Passing from one area to the next through an intriguing arch creates a sense of mystery. You can create a living threshold for your garden rooms with fast growing plants tethered to a metal arch.


  • Fast growing shrubs that will reach a good height and are pliable. I used Leyland cypress.
  • Fast setting concrete
  • Shovel
  • Leather strips. Old belts work well.
  • Rust-resistant paint
  • Metal arch


  1. Plant fast growing shrubs to form a hedge with a 4 foot gap where you want the arched doorway to go.
  2. Once the hedge has matured to 6 or 7 feet design a frame of an arch on paper and give the plant to a local welder to build. Click here for a plan of Allen’s arch.
  3. Paint the arch with rust resistant enamel to preserve the frame and prevent rust from rubbing off on anyone who passes through.
  4. Dig holes for the arch feet.
  5. Mix and pour concrete into holes for footings.
  6. Place arch in concrete and allow to set.
  7. Tether the longest central limbs of these plants to the frame using leather straps or other material that will not cut into the trunks.