Creative Solutions: Yardscape with Borders and Walls

With a little imagination, you can easily re-work the landscape cards Mother Nature dealt you. Got a ho-hum yard? A flat rectangle lot with no individuality or character to speak of? Or just the opposite, with slopes that are hard to nurture and navigate?

Options range from low border walls - for trees, flower beds and vegetable gardens - to carving in retaining walls to level slopes and turn a wild landscape into usable patches of land.

Don't Sweat the Small Stuff

Low garden walls and borders for planters and visual interest are easy to construct. Materials range from brick, stone, wood and concrete block to specialty products and railroad ties.

  • Tip: Interlocking "look-like-stone" concrete blocks are easy to use, cost efficient and truly wall beautiful. A popular choice worth checking out.
  • Tip: Avoid "perimeter" design. Low walls that parallel barrier fencing on rectangular lots make yards seem smaller. Free form designs, diagonal corners, multi-level terraces and free-standing shapes in open areas are better.
  • Tip: Top edge of low walls makes great extra seating (15" to 18" high and at least 12" wide).
  • Tip: Dark oily "Creosote" on railroad ties rubs off on clothing or skin and may leach into soil. Use care. If plants and vegetables are nearby, add plastic liner as safety barrier.

Size Does Matter

As garden wall height reaches or exceeds about 24" they technically become retaining walls. Thus, planning requires more thought and execution a bit more know-how.

  • Tip: Keep DIY retaining walls to a 3' maximum. Beyond this height, most local building codes kick in, requiring engineering plans, building permits and inspections for safety.
  • Tip: Terrace a steep slope, with a number of 3' or less walls, rather than one large wall for the reason above. If a taller wall is in order, try not to exceed eye-level for optimum visual benefit. Multiple terraced levels (with a number of 5' walls) are better than creating "The Great Wall of Your-Place" neighborhood spectacle.

Purchasing Materials


There are formulas that help determine how much of anything you'll need - from bricks to concrete blocks. Know the measurements of your chosen building material and calculate needs based on your project dimensions.

While estimating seems complex, it's worth the effort - as buying too little or too much of anything wastes time, effort and money.

  • Tip: A handy little tool called ProjectCalc® makes it easy. This Feet-Inch-Fraction calculator is programmed with built-in solutions for hundreds of home projects; a few keystrokes determine material needs with pin-point accuracy. To estimate, enter project dimensions for square footage, hit "convert" and specific "type of material" buttons to learn number of bricks, blocks, board feet or cubic yards needed - add price per unit and total project cost is displayed. Easy as 1-2-3. It's typically priced under $20.00 at well stocked hardware stores and most home centers.

Yardscaping with imagination and garden walls is easy, when you work smart.

Courtesy of Calculated Industries