DIY Stacked Stone Garden Wall

4 Materials
We have several water-diverting berms (mini-hills) in our yard to help with drainage. They were ho-hum eyesores until we added some plants and a little stacked stone.
Wait...did I say "a little" stacked stone?!
Although we DID buy several pallets of wall stone (someone neglected to mention he had plans beyond this project!)...we actually used two and a third pallets for this two-tier wall project: (60' of total length and about 15" high).
In the last few years, we've built several of these little walls using different techniques.

One of these berms became a place for us to plant bargain trees and eventually became the site of the hosta garden we planted last year.
But this is the area we attacked this month:
Right behind the pachysandra is a drainage ditch...and then a hill we recently discovered was part of our yard.

Here's the same area after hacking out all the weeds and brush and adding a two-tier retaining wall.
If you'd like a step-by-step, you can follow the link below. A summary of the steps we took (as hobbyists, not engineers) are as follows:

Dig a trench about 8 inches deep and as wide as you want the wall to be. Add landscape fabric to the trench and fill with drainage stone. When the stone is at ground level, fold over the fabric.
We sorted the stones by size: large-area stones, chunky thick pieces, skinny shims, medium sizes, and tiny crumbles.
Then, we began to place the wall stones directly onto the landscape fabric, using larger stones as the foundation layer.
Next, we filled between the stones with pea gravel to level and stabilize.
We added the next layers using combinations of stone, often with varying thicknesses for visual interest (i.e., two or three skinny stones next to a larger thick one). All the while, we tried to keep the layers level.
This is where it becomes like a giant 3-D jigsaw puzzle: choosing rocks of varying thicknesses and sizes and making them fit.... using smaller stones as shims and supports, and adding more pea gravel to keep it all in place.

We worked on both walls--and both ends--at the same time, starting and stopping until we solved the puzzle. We'd set aside plenty of large similar-sized stones to use as the top layer.

(That's where having the extra pallet was particularly helpful.)
It was hard work under the hot July sun...but we love the outcome and can't wait to add plants to the two levels.
For more detail, of course, kindly visit the link provided below.
Suggested materials:
  • Pallets of colonial wall stone   (local nursery)
  • Landscape fabric   (big box hardware store)
  • Drainage stone   (big box hardware store)
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EmDirr @
Want more details about this and other DIY projects? Check out my blog post!
Frequently asked questions
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  2 questions
  • Dee B Dee B on Jul 25, 2016
    That is looking very good.! How does it affect the drainage if at all?
  • Sarah Jane Sarah Jane on Aug 16, 2019

    Is the pea gravel enough to keep the soil from washing out through the stones when it rains?

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3 of 91 comments
  • Janet Dulin Janet Dulin on Aug 31, 2016
    No, do I need to pack it or provide a cement base. The soil is fill and pretty sandy.
  • Allor Allor on Jan 29, 2017
    I can tell, 10 men, two horses and a mule later, this DIY project was Sooooooo worth the effort. How log did it take?????