Creative Landscaping With Retaining Walls

Published Date: October 23rd, 2008
Category: Gardening

by STEVE BOULDEN

Retaining walls can be used to create raised garden beds, prevent erosion, and stabilize steep-sloped banks. They can be crafted from large river rocks, field stone, railroad ties, heavy timbers, concrete blocks, brick, steel, vinyl, or even small boulders. Whether the walls are supported by anchoring, gravity, pilings, or are cantilevered, quality of construction is critical: retaining walls must be sturdy enough to support the weight of the fill or soil behind them. Walls can vary from large to small, complex to simple, straight or curved. They can line a pool or patio, garden, walkway, or driveway; retaining walls can be used as edging or be designed as freestanding. With so many possible design options, it is best to seek professional advice. Even if you want to build the walls yourself or if they don’t need to be extensive, you should always obtain advice on specifications. Much easier to plan for and install are stone or rock walls, most of which serve as informal dividers between certain areas, field and forest, garden beds, or abutting properties. They can range from low to high in height and from rounded but rugged-edged to more uniformed, straighter edges, for example, if one uses cut slate or pavers. An important note for those in suburban, urban, or areas with shared space, such as condos: many communities implement height restrictions on stone walls; some allow for up to 4’; others limit height to 2’. Usually, the length of your rock wall does not matter as long as it does not encroach on another’s property setback requirements.

Another thing to keep in mind will be the desired functions of your wall: will you be gardening nearby? Will you need to prune behind it? Will this be an additional seating area in your yard? If yes to any of those questions, a height of 2-2 ½” is desirable. There will be other considerations: how permanent you want your stone wall to be, whether a loose (dry stack) or mortared wall will best suit your needs, how to design and structure your wall for proper drainage if necessary, and any special features you’d like. For loose rock walls, you’ll want to stick with a height of 3’ or under – unless you are a stonescaping professional. There are a few common-sense design rules to follow: use larger rocks at the base of the wall; aim for rock and stone placement that offers the closest rock-to-rock fit for wall stability; plan openings and spaces for any gates in advance.

Though some use stonescaping and hardscaping interchangeably, stonescaping refers to stone and masonry work, including rock walls, retaining walls, brick patios, concrete slabs, etc; hardscaping refers to all of those, as well as wooden decks, wire trellises, wooden edging, arbors, tile walkways, slate paths, and more. Hardscaping includes any inanimate parts of your landscape – even the garden globe, lamppost, and birdbath. For more free landscaping plans, design pictures, ideas, and a free landscaping companies and designers directory, visit www.the-landscape-design-site.com.

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