Retaining garden walls are useful for practical and aesthetic reasons. They help prevent soil erosion at different elevations in your garden by bearing up to the pressure of the soil expanding as the plants grow. They’re great for creating borders and raised beds of soil in your garden.
Here are a few ideas for your garden retaining wall:
- Mesh gabion
In this article, I’ll elaborate on how these materials can be used to build a retaining wall in your garden and how they hold up over time, so read on!
A retaining wall made of wood uses either wood planks or wood blocks to create a wall around garden beds. Wood is typically chosen for aesthetic reasons since the wooden walls blend into the rest of the garden and complement the garden’s overall appearance.
This is especially true for cabins and homes with a more cottage-esque appearance, where the wooden walls will blend in with the rest of the house.
Wood is also chosen because it’s cheaper and easier to work with than most materials. It’s used in building embankments for roads with low traffic, so wood is perfectly functional for retaining walls.However, the material won’t hold as much weight as other materials. To find out what kind of weight you’ll need for your retaining wall, read our article here.
You can use wooden planks or blocks to build raised garden beds on sloped land, as demonstrated in this Lowe’s Home Improvement video, ‘How to Build a Terraced Garden Bed on a Slope’:
Lowe’s Home Improvement uses pressure-treated lumber in the video. The best kind of timber or lumber would be either Douglas fir or Cedar to ensure the wood can withstand the pressure of the soil and last as long as possible.
As with all kinds of retaining walls, draining is particularly important. Without a good system for drainage, the wood will decompose faster, and your retaining wall won’t last as long.
Wood is ideal for low retaining walls not exceeding 4 feet (1.2 meters) high. Retaining walls made of well-treated, good-quality timber should last about 20 years. However, this isn’t as long as the other materials listed in this article. So if you’re looking for something that lasts a bit longer, read on.
Stone is another popular material used in building garden retaining walls. Like wood, stone also blends in well with the aesthetics of most gardens. There are multiple ways in which stone can be used for retaining walls.
One of the most common versions of stone retaining walls are built using rubble. This involves using stones of random sizes and shapes tightly dry-stacked together, meaning they’re stacked without any bonding material between the stones.
Unfortunately, this is time-consuming and commonly results in an improper stacking of materials. This ultimately affects the overall stability of the structure and its durability.
Apart from rubble, you can use natural stone as well.
Stone has been used as a material for building retaining walls for centuries. It’s favored by many because it’s durable and anchors well into the ground. Not to mention, it’s effective in preventing soil erosion and creating raised beds.
All kinds of stones tend to be more expensive in terms of both labor and the material itself. Stone isn’t easy to work with, and you can’t build a stone retaining wall without help, especially if your wall is to be higher than 3 feet (0.9 meters).
While stone garden retaining walls may be expensive, they’re longer lasting than most materials. Additionally, natural stone allows for easy drainage without the issue of rotting away like wood. This makes it an excellent material to use in rainy areas.
Concrete retaining walls are poured concrete or interlocking concrete blocks to create a wall around your garden.
Poured concrete or masonry walls are a single mass that obstructs soil erosion. While the walls themselves are effective, drainage is a problem with concrete as the material doesn’t allow water to flow freely or seep through in any way, unlike wood or concrete.
It’s essential to map out a good drainage plan to build a poured concrete wall. Weep holes placed every four to ten feet (1.2 to 3 meters) within the wall should be sufficient.
Poured concrete also tends to be hard to repair or replace since a crack can mean expensive repairs and frequently requires the entire wall to be replaced.
Most cities have general guidelines for garden retaining walls, like this one from La Cambria in California. These may vary from city to city, depending on the soil and weather conditions of the region. Nevertheless, the standard rules require that the thickness of the concrete wall be at least six inches to ensure it can hold up against the pressure of the soil.
Concrete blocks with interlocking edges are far easier to work with than poured concrete. This is mostly because they can be stacked in much the same way as a natural stone wall, but with the added security of the interlocking.
Available in garden wall size, which is lightweight and easy to move around,concrete blocks can be used by just about anyone without the need to pay extra for labor costs. However, if you’re planning to build a high wall, you might want to consider bringing in professionals to build the wall for you.
Bricks are a commonly used material in constructing garden retaining walls since they tend to be slightly cheaper than stone and are easier to handle, overall.
They also tend to be less time-consuming to build with than concrete blocks. Furthermore, red brick walls are more environment-friendly than concrete blocks since they’re made of clay.
Brick is also durable–though not as much as stone–and easy to maintain. Plus, it weathers well, unlike concrete, which might need regular paint touch-ups. However, brick is more expensive and heavier than concrete. Additionally, some kind of mortar might need to be used in a brick wall.
Like concrete, brick retaining walls need a carefully designed drainage system to prevent any water retention behind the wall. Weep vents installed into the brickwork can ensure good drainage. These should be installed one-third of the way up the wall.
When building a brick wall, the average thickness tends to be about one ‘skin’ (or layer) of brick. Keep in mind, this is no longer the rule of thumb when you want to build walls taller than 400 yards (365 meters) –but that’s unlikely for a garden wall.
Brick walls can be functional in multiple ways, not just as a retaining wall. For example, you could use a brick wall as a vertical surface for gardening by building holes into the wall to be used as planters. Holes in the brick wall can also be used for gardening decor like lights, lamps, decorative curios, or other elements that can be placed in small holes.
A brick wall is also useful as a structure for your smaller vines to climb on. Just make sure the wall is properly treated to prevent moisture absorption and gradual breakdown caused by the plant’s natural growth.
If you’re planning to use brick for your retaining walls, it’s advised against using sun-dried, over-burnt, or otherwise low-quality bricks. Any of these options won’t be durable enough for a wall. They will break down quickly and are better used for temporary structures or roadworks.
5. Mesh Gabion
Gabion comes from the Italian word ‘gabbione.’ The word refers to a big cage. Gabion walls are walls made of a mesh structure filled with rocks, stone, sand, or a mix of all three.
Mesh gabion walls are traditionally used for embankments, making them an excellent option for building garden retaining walls. They look natural and blend in well with the aesthetics of a garden. They also don’t have drainage issues as concrete or brick walls would.
Like stone walls, the stacking and mesh of the gabion allow water to permeate through the wall while preventing soil erosion. This prevents any water stagnation that might build up and topple the wall later.
Gabion walls are about as durable as stone walls. Moreover, they tend to become more effective over time as plants grow through the openings in the mesh wire and add to the structure’s overall stability. A wall with PVC-coated mesh could last 60 years or longer.
The cost of gabion walls varies depending on the area that needs to be walled and the rocks, stones, or pebbles used to fill up the gabion cages. They’re cheaper than a stone wall but may cost about as much as a brick wall. However, their durability and natural drainage give them an edge over a brick garden retaining wall.
You can choose from gabion baskets, sacks, wire mesh, or mattresses to build your gabion wall. Retaining walls for home gardens are typically built using gabion baskets.
These walls tend to be easier to climb than other kinds of materials, so you may not want to use mesh gabion for your perimeter walls if you have security concerns.
If you’re hungry for more ideas and information, we wrote an entire series on retaining walls. Check out our guides to put yourself on the path to getting your own.
- Transportation Research Board: TIMBER CRIB RETAINING STRUCTURES
- YouTube: Lowe’s Home Improvement: How to Build a Terraced Garden Bed on a Slope
- Nonprofit Home Inspections: Common Retaining Wall Problems
- The Construction Civil: Retaining Walls – Types, Design, Stability
- National Concrete Masonry Association (NCMA): CONCRETE MASONRY GRAVITY RETAINING WALLS
- The Children’s Museum at La Habra: STANDARD BLOCK WALL (GARDEN WALL)
- Duke University: Chapter 1 – Retaining Wall
- DIY Doctor: How to Build a Garden Retaining Wall
- Hebei Lvhua Gabion Wall Co., Ltd.: home page
- World Research Library: GABION WALLS AND THEIR USE
- Soils Matter, Get the Scoop!: How do retaining walls work?
“Retaining walls are vertical walls that are designed to hold back soil or water on slopes," explains Chris Bonnett founder of Gardening Express (opens in new tab). "Its main purpose is to make these areas functional and neat.How can I make my garden wall more interesting? ›
- Grow a row of espaliered trees. ...
- Elevate the mood with an eye-catching hue. ...
- Add a whimsical window. ...
- Soothe the scene with a water wall. ...
- Add extra greenery with an outdoor wreath. ...
- Dazzle with tiles on your garden wall. ...
- Make it a fun feature.
Retaining walls can be made from wood, bricks, natural stones or concrete blocks. For DIYers, it's best to use concrete retaining wall blocks, which can be interlocking and are heavy enough to stay in place without cement or other adhesive.What is the cheapest type of retaining wall? ›
What Is the Cheapest Type of Retaining Wall? The cheapest type of retaining wall is poured concrete. Prices start at $4.30 per square foot for poured concrete, $5.65 for interlocking concrete block, $6.15 for pressure-treated pine, and about $11 for stone.What are the three types of retaining walls? ›
The three main types of retaining walls are concrete, and masonry or stone. The materials you choose will depend on the location of the wall, the aesthetic qualities you prefer, and how long you expect the wall to last. A retaining wall is used to contain soil and hold it in place in areas where a slope is present.How can I make my garden amazing? ›
- Site it right. Starting a garden is just like real estate it's all about location. ...
- Follow the sun. ...
- Stay close to water. ...
- Start with great soil. ...
- Consider containers. ...
- Choose the right plants. ...
- Discover your zone. ...
- Learn your frost dates.
- Brush up on the Basics. Understand the importance of basic seasonal gardening and reap the rewards of a beautiful garden all year round. ...
- Give Your Garden Some Style. ...
- Small Garden Ideas. ...
- Simple Garden Ideas. ...
- Take Inspiration From Others. ...
- Don't Forget the Accessories. ...
- Think Outside the Box.
Look for different colours, shapes and styles of leaves. Try colour co-ordinating plants in groups or swathes to create a picture that will shine all year round. Flowers are just one way of celebrating the seasons. They are colourful and often fragrant but there are other ways to introduce seasonal interest.What should I put on my garden wall? ›
What can I put on my outdoor walls? Aside from transforming outdoor walls with a fresh coat of paint, adding shelves, artwork, trellis or wall-hung planters are all easy ways of brightening up dreary wall space.What is the easiest retaining wall? ›
The cheapest way to build a retaining wall is to DIY it. And the most DIY-friendly way is to use commercially available concrete blocks, sold in Home Depot or Lowe's. They commonly come as self-aligning and trapezoidal in shape which makes it easier to form concaves, convexes, or straight walls.
Bricks are the cheapest material and come in a range of colours, depending on the type of clay they're made from and the manufacturing process. They can also be multi-coloured or mottled, and have a rough or smooth texture.What is the best material to put behind a retaining wall? ›
The base of a retaining wall should be set below ground level. The taller a wall is, the further below ground level it should be set. Crucial for supporting the rest of the wall, a good base is made of compacted soil and at least a six inch layer of compacted sand and gravel.What is the best material for a retaining wall? ›
The best retaining wall material is stone. People love stone retaining walls because: Stone is strong and durable.How do you make a strong retaining wall? ›
When building a retaining wall, never backfill with, or compact, topsoil; it will break down and settle, creating a water-welcoming trench behind your wall. Use sandy or gravelly materials, which compact much better. And always make certain you don't become overzealous and compact your wall outward.What is retaining wall and its example? ›
A retaining wall is a structure that holds or retains soil behind it. There are many types of materials that can be used to create retaining walls like concrete blocks, poured concrete, treated timbers, rocks or boulders. Some are easy to use, others have a shorter life span, but all can retain soil.How can I make my garden look magical? ›
- Lay Down a Nice Base. Cleaning is in order – I know this doesn't sound very magical, but doing any kind of work in a messy environment will only require more work later. ...
- Placing Stone Paths. ...
- Plant Flowers. ...
- Craft Your Furniture. ...
- Introduce Magical Lighting.
Symmetry and balance are two of the most important dimensions in a formal garden, along with geometric shapes within a simple planting design. Decide on your shape and keep repeating this shape throughout the garden, whether it is flower beds, paths, water, or the space between these elements.What is the number 1 garden in the world? ›
1. Keukenhof, Lisse, Netherlands. With more than seven million flowering plants, the flower garden of Keukenhof is the largest in the world. The garden covers an area of 32 hectares or nearly 80 acres.How can I make my garden look nice without money? ›
- Repurpose old wooden crates to make stylish shelves. ...
- Use old jars as mini planters. ...
- Try DIY terracotta candle holders. ...
- Create a cool, industrial-style aesthetic with oversized planters. ...
- Make an upcycled hanging planter. ...
- Guide the way with a cute garden sign. ...
- Glow up your shed. ...
- Create a gorgeous garden display wall.
- Luscious™ Citrus Blend™ Lantana.
- Cheddar Pink (Dianthus gratianopolitanus)
- Creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia)
- Ground morning glory (Convolvulus sabatius)
- Thyme (Thymus)
- Dolce® Key Lime Pie Heuchera.
- Diamond Frost® Euphorbia.
Crushed or smooth stone, well graded, compactable aggregate, ranging in size from 0.25 in. to 1.5 in. (6 to 38 mm) is the ideal wall rock size.How do you build a Deadman retaining wall? ›
Dig out a T-shape trench into the hillside behind the wall and lay in the dead man. Fasten the dead man to the retaining wall with two landscaping screws. Then stake the dead man to the soil with two rebar stakes. Install one dead man every 6 to 8 feet around the entire wall.What is the most common retaining wall failure? ›
One of the most frequent causes of retaining wall issues is saturated soils. Pressure is dramatically increased when water is allowed to saturate the soil or the backfill. Wet soil is heavier than dry soil and it can put a strain on the retaining wall if it is not designed to handle that increased weight.
Retaining walls are structure used to retain soil, rock or other materials in a vertical condition. Hence they provide a lateral support to vertical slopes of soil that would otherwise collapse into a more natural shape.What are the factors to be considered when designing a retaining wall? ›
What should I consider when designing a retaining wall? When designing a retaining wall, there are seven factors to consider: materials, type of wall, design or on-site placement, drainage, foundations, cant or batter, and anchors or “deadmen”.What is the difference between a garden wall and a retaining wall? ›
Retaining walls can be of any height but are usually higher than 3 feet. Garden walls are low walls, usually about 18-24 inches in height, that line a landscape feature. The garden wall acts as a division between the installed feature and the rest of the landscape.How do I build a low cost retaining wall? ›
- Simple Stacked Brick.
- Cinder Blocks.
- Railway Sleepers.
- Poured Concrete.
- Build a Stone Wall.
- Repurposed Pallets.
- Decorative Flagstone.
- Rustic Logs.
Fine-grained soil is often used as fill material in construction projects because it can be easily compacted to create a firm, solid foundation. It is one of the most popular materials used, even though it is not an ideal option for areas that have major drainage needs.How do you stop a retaining wall from rotting? ›
You can apply wood preservative using a paint brush, use a solid insect repellant like creosote or weather sealer. You can also stain the wood and use a sealant so that it is finished well and protected from bad weather.What are the best blocks for retaining wall? ›
- Allan Block (Allan Block Wall Systems) ...
- Cornerstone (Cornerstone Wall Solutions) ...
- Keystone (Keystone Retaining Wall Systems) ...
- Pisa (RisiStone Retaining Wall Systems) ...
- Architextures (RisiStone Retaining Wall Systems) ...
- Versa-Lok (Versa-Lok Retaining Wall Systems)
Landscape fabric is thin and sturdy and is a simple way to preserve a retaining wall's construction.How thick must a retaining wall be? ›
It should be at least 215mm thick and bonded or made of two separate brick skins tied together. This should be enough in most cases with minimal water pressure or where the ground level difference is less than a metre.What's the difference between a retaining wall and a garden wall? ›
Retaining walls can be of any height but are usually higher than 3 feet. Garden walls are low walls, usually about 18-24 inches in height, that line a landscape feature. The garden wall acts as a division between the installed feature and the rest of the landscape.What is the difference between a retaining wall and a boundary wall? ›
Retaining wall: a wall supporting land that is higher on one side of the wall than it is on the other side, where that retaining wall also serves as a boundary wall; Building faces: a boundary may run along the side (or front or rear) face of a building.What is a retaining wall on a property? ›
A wall built in a rural zone to hold back soil at a higher level on one side. Also known as: Gravity wall, cantilever wall.How deep should a garden retaining wall be? ›
Retaining wall foundation depth should be 300mm if the soil is firm and well-drained, or 450mm if less firm and unstable. Dig out foundation [base on which wall stands] which must be twice the width of the wall.What attributes make a good retaining wall? ›
A strong retaining wall design features well-compacted base material, compacted material in front of the wall to prevent kick-out, and stepped-back materials.What is the 7 year boundary rule? ›
This means local authorities can't serve enforcement notices for an unauthorised development when seven years have passed since the commencement of the development.What is a retaining wall called? ›
A retaining wall that retains soil on the backside and water on the frontside is called a seawall or a bulkhead.Can plants act as a retaining wall? ›
In fact, erosion control is often one of the top motivations to build a retaining wall in the first place. Fortunately, plants can aid in this effort as well. The root systems of the plants you grow help to hold the soil in place. Without those plants, rain, wind, and runoff can displace the soil above your wall.
A gabion wall is a retaining wall made of stacked stone-filled gabions tied together with wire. Gabion walls are usually battered (angled back towards the slope), or stepped back with the slope, rather than stacked vertically.Do all retaining walls need drainage? ›
Every retaining wall should include drainage stone behind the wall. Though it is a good idea to install a drainage pipe on all walls, there are certain situations where a perforated drain pipe is absolutely necessary.Are retaining walls good? ›
Retaining walls are an excellent way to prevent soil erosion, which can lead to the loss of valuable topsoil and increase the risk of flooding. A well-placed retaining wall can also ensure the soil doesn't erode onto your walkways, driveway, patio, or steps, which can be difficult to clean and walk on.