How to build a terraced garden wall
The great thing about a terraced garden is that it can create a really stunning effect. This is because a terrace creates levels in the garden, and you can plant different species at each level and use different heights of plants within the same level.
Terrace garden walls can be built in many different materials, depending on what kind of look you want and how much money you want to spend – stone might be beautiful but is expensive…plus unless you’re really strong, it’s backbreaking work. Brick or concrete blocks are also worth considering because they can create excellent features in your garden- they’re also more affordable than stone.
Before starting to dig, you need to know your boundaries – check with neighbors, the land registry office, or local council whether you have permission for the structure and how close it needs to sit to any boundaries. If in doubt, don’t proceed! You could work on a project like this for months or even years, then end up having no garden at all if there’s a problem with the planning permission (a neighbor could object, for example)!
To give your terrace structure, you need to decide on its width. You can keep to just one width for the whole length of the wall or have two or more varied widths along it. Of course, you can build a terraced garden wall yourself, and here we will show you how to do it.
You don’t need to use them all, but your wall should ideally be made up of one or more layers of either brick or dry stone. The space between the base and the uppermost level provides good drainage, so there is no need for an additional layer such as rubble, as this could create a bad atmosphere.
Some bricks are now manufactured with holes through them at regular intervals to give a dry stone appearance, even if they’re glazed or solid bricks that have been hollowed out on the inside. These support plants well, but they’re expensive and not as attractive as natural dry-stone walls, and they’re best used in formal or old-fashioned gardens.
For a more informal wall, you can get hold of cheaper bricks with holes in the middle of them, which are not so suitable for growing through but look fine when used randomly to build up irregular walls. You’ll need to use these with mortar because they won’t stack together easily on their own.
You can also buy ‘wand’ slabs instead of bricks. These are solid concrete slabs with holes drilled into them at regular intervals, which means you don’t have to use mortar between them. They’re ideal if you want quick results without too much work – just lay the slabs on top of the grass and surround each one with a bit of earth pushed down from above, so it’s level with the surface.
You can use loose rocks, which you either buy ready-made or collect yourself from a riverbed, to build up lower levels of your wall – these are known as rubble or cornerstone walls, and they’re great because they look very natural. In addition, there is no need to crush them into smaller pieces because, over time, the action of rain and frost will wear them down so that they fit together quite naturally without mortar.
They also provide excellent insulating properties against frosts and cold winds, and there’s no need for any additional drainage layers. However, if you use this type of wall and want to grow plants, remember that many won’t be happy with the wet conditions, so stick with more straightforward varieties such as sedum or ivy.
You can also use wooden planks to make up your terraced wall, but the easiest way is to buy purpose-made plastic planks which slot together tightly and look much more attractive than cheap hardwood ones. The only downside with this method is that you need many of them for a big wall, which can be expensive.
If you are building up the base layer, you are advised to lay some kind of mesh or netting underneath it to stop weeds growing into it – this prevents water from getting through the gaps in the bricks. If there are plants already growing there, then you can let them spread through it naturally as they’ll soon grow through anyway – if you have grass on top of your base layer, then the netting will keep weeds out while letting the grass grow through.
The benefits of making a terraced garden wall:
* create attractive features in your garden
* grow plants up it to cover it, especially if using wooden planks which will rot quickly if exposed to damp conditions or rain
* make use of any space on your property that has previously had no purpose (it might even encourage you to landscape the rest of your garden)
The disadvantages of terraced garden walls are:
* there’s no getting away from the fact that they’re backbreaking work! If you’re not keen on digging, then you can always pay someone to do it for you instead, but check whether their price includes other landscaping works as well – if it doesn’t, then hire someone else or simply plant your flowers at ground level instead.
* could cause problems with neighbors (especially if built without permission!) so check any local boundaries before building one. Also, remember that a wall can only be used to divide the land between two properties – if you want a fence to stop people from walking in from other areas, consult your local planning office.
* need maintenance, especially when plants are growing over them, so make sure you have access to a hosepipe and someone who can help with regular cleaning duties. If you don’t water them well once they’re established, your walls could get damaged by frost.
A terraced garden wall is an attractive feature that can create levels in your garden, giving you more growing space. However, it does take time and effort to build one yourself – unless you use ready-made plastic planks! It’s not difficult, though, if you go about it carefully, taking some basic safety precautions along with any legal notices required by law (for example, planning permission). If you decide to make one for yourself, then make sure you only use materials appropriate for your climate – this is especially important if using wood because it could rot quickly in damp conditions, so check how long the product should last before installing it.
If you install a terrace wall in your garden, it’s a great idea to grow climbers up it because it offers both extra interest and reduces the number of materials you need for landscaping. In addition, climbers such as ivy or clematis will cover a wall in no time, turning a seemingly featureless brick wall into a beautiful green work of art!