Building a concrete wall for the garden.

Lakewood, WA(Zone 8a)

For the people on the 'sedum' thread, here is how to build this concrete wall. Building these walls was a way for me to recycle part of the mountain of broken concrete in my backyard. All the broken concrete was from a remodel we did and it costs a fortune to have hauled away, plus it's good for building stuff so I figured I should just look at it as a resource.

Basically, the walls start out like this: sorry it's so bright, but the sun came out just as I was photographing. Just take the chunks of concrete and lay them where you want the wall to be. Be sure that the widest chunk is not wider than you want the wall.

Thumbnail by Pixydish
Lakewood, WA(Zone 8a)

Next, put your forms up on both sides of the concrete. What you use for forms depends on whether you want a wall with wavy sides like mine or straight sides, and how tall you want it to be. I wanted an 'undulating' wall where the sides bulge out a bit here and there, and I wanted the wall to curve around to 'hug' the garden. so I used cheap hardboard. I bought it in 4 x 8 sheets and then cut strips as wide as I wanted the wall to be tall. In other words, for a 2 foot wall, cut the hardboard into 2 ft wide strips.

Thumbnail by Pixydish
Lakewood, WA(Zone 8a)

To make the forms, use lots of rebar. Drive the rebar down into the soil on both sides of the cement chunks to hold the form against the chunks. don't skimp on the rebar if you are using flexible forms. The cement is heavy and will push out of the bottom and will easily bend the hardboard out of shape. Use the rebar to define the outside shape of the wall and hold the form in place. Again, I can't say it enough. Do not skimp on the rebar. Where I wanted big curves, I just put the rebar a little bit further out.
Put a form on both sides of the concrete. You'll notice that on my wall the outside bulges more than the inside. That's because I wanted the inside to be fairly straight, so I used extra rebar. Make sure the rebar is driven deeply into the earth and is sturdy or you will be very, very sorry.

Lakewood, WA(Zone 8a)

Once your form is up, start filling the form with concrete rubble. These are small pieces that are just hard to get rid of. They make good filler. I also used lots of rocks from my soil, since I have an unlimited supply. They also make good filler. don't fill the form up to the top. Basically you will be doing 'layers' of mixed concrete, then rubble.

So put in a layer of rubble, leaving a little room for the concrete to 'mush' down between everything and hold it together. Then start mixing your concrete and shovel into the form. I did not make mine too 'liquidy' because I didn't want it to run. When you mix, don't use too much water. You want to be able to put the concrete where you want it and have it stay there. continue adding concrete on top of your first layer of rubble, then add another layer of rubble on top - like making lasagna.
At this point, if you want to take a break and come back to it the next day, you can. Just see that the second layer of rubble is embedded in the fresh crete.

Lakewood, WA(Zone 8a)

continue adding fresh concrete and rubble until the forms are filled , ending with fresh concrete so the top will be smooth.
let the forms sit for a day or two to cure.
when the crete has hardened enough, wiggle the rebar out of the ground and pull off the forms. I did not use a release agent on my forms and they came off fine. The outside of your wall will show the layers of concrete and rubble and will not be solid. If you like this look, you can leave it and stain it, etc. I started filling the hole in with freshly mixed crete, using my hands. I just packed it in anywhere there was a gap in the wall.

If you are wanting to do the sedum wall, this is the time to attach the rocks to the top and use fresh concrete to build up between them a bit. Since sedum doesn't like to sit in water, you'll have to put drainage holes in like I did in the photo. Just put a stick or something into the fresh concrete to make a hole. You can leave it there until the concrete hardens.
I also built up the wall a bit on either side of each drainage hole so that the water would run toward the hole. Our winters are very wet here.
If you want to do mosaic on top of the wall, this is a good time to do it.



I'll have to finish this thread later, I have to go to work now.

This message was edited Jun 21, 2006 2:34 PM

Thumbnail by Pixydish
Lakewood, WA(Zone 8a)

I wanted a smooth finish on the wall, so I used topping mix that comes in the big bags in the concrete aisle. You just add water, same as the concrete. Add enough water to make it thick enough to trowel on easily. Now here is the important part: To get the topping mix to stick to a vertical surface, use the product in the photo , or the equivalent. Brush it onto the wall in an area just big enough to do right away without the product drying. Then use a bricklayers trowel or any other tool that feels right to you and smooth the topping mix onto the wall. You can play with the texture, etc. You can also use concrete colorant to color the mix and make a wall other than grey. There's a lot of wrist action in this part of the work, so go slowly if you have a tendency to joint pain. I dipped my trowel in water when I wanted the surface really smooth. You just have to play with it until you get the look you want.

Then let the wall cure before you plant the top. Remember that concrete leaches lime into the soil, so acid loving plants are not going to be happy there for awhile unless you seal it. It needs to be fully cured before sealing.

Thumbnail by Pixydish
Lakewood, WA(Zone 8a)

Here's a photo of a larger segment of the wall.

Thumbnail by Pixydish
Lakewood, WA(Zone 8a)

You can see the face of the wall better in this shot.

Thumbnail by Pixydish
Lakewood, WA(Zone 8a)

Here's a little mosaic on another wall.

Thumbnail by Pixydish
Lakewood, WA(Zone 8a)

Here's one of the mosaics for 'sitting' on the big wall.

Thumbnail by Pixydish
Lakewood, WA(Zone 8a)

Here's the other one.

Thumbnail by Pixydish
Lakewood, WA(Zone 8a)

I found this photo of the wall before planting. You can see how the rocks are put on and how the concrete is built up a little between them to contain the soil. sedums have a shallow root system, so the planting areas are not very deep.

Good luck with yours!

Thumbnail by Pixydish
Thornton, IL

Hi pixydish! So you go right from the topping pic to the next couple of shots? Is that what the wall looks like at first, weird. Wait, is that because the shallow trench that you plant the sedums in isn't formed yet? Until the rocks are put on and the concrete is built up a little between them, right? I'm really glad you showed us all how you do this, even step by step, I'm not sure I get it. I know I'd be really lost without any pictures! Or being able to ask questions, LOL. thanks again, I really love the look. Some of the sedum and other succulents are so small, the raised bed is really genius, and the built in benches are divine.

Lakewood, WA(Zone 8a)

Thanks, Pairiegirl. I built this wall before I was a member of DG and nobody cared how I built it but me, so I didn't have many photos of the entire process. I'm going to be doing another wall this year, or maybe two, so I'll have a chance to photograph the process a bit better. when I do it, I'll post photos here of all of the steps. But i'm always available to answer questions.

This message was edited Jun 21, 2006 9:20 PM

West Central, FL(Zone 9b)

Pixidish , Thank you so much for sharing this with us! What a clever way to dispose of the concrete junk on your property.

I was wondering if you poured a footing first and used any rebar on the inside?

How long was the wall and what would you say roughly was your cost?

The mosaics are very nice and I especially love the fish one.

Michelle

Lakewood, WA(Zone 8a)

Hi Michelle,
No, I did not pour any kind of footing or use any rebar on the inside. The walls are solid as rock. I just made sure that the ground was fairly level.
The wall is about 25 feet long and about 2 1/2 feet tall. All told, the cost was about 50$ -75$. One reason for using the concrete rubble is that is saves a lot on the cost since it takes up a great deal of room inside and the fresh crete holds everything together.
glad you like it!

Minneapolis, MN(Zone 4b)

Pixydish, Thank you for the instructions. I wonder if I can find anyone that is taking a sidewalk out and wants to get rid of the concrete chunks. How cold does it get where you are? I think I would need to put a footing in with the cold weather we have. It gives me a great start. I already have some ideas rolling around.

The wall looks great, I like the way the mosaics are placed between the sedum areas.

Lakewood, WA(Zone 8a)

Yeah, your weather gets a lot colder than we do. We don't get the long, hard freezes that you do so a footing would likely be the best thing for you.
Glad you like it! I'm thinking of using a colored topping mix next time.

Kerhonkson, NY(Zone 5a)

What's a footing?

-South Central-, IL(Zone 6a)

Pixydish, I love your Washington stones. We don't have anything like that in Mississippi...

In another life I might try to make a wall like yours... this is inspiring. Thanks.

Lakewood, WA(Zone 8a)

A footing is like a foundation for the wall, generally below soil level.

thanks, flowrlady! It always makes me happy when people enjoy my garden, even just the photos!

Tomball, TX

Hey Pixy --- Don't know how I missed this thread until now, but I'm glad I found it. What a wonderful wall! I love the mix of seating & growing areas. I love your idea so much I may have to "steal" it! Just outstanding...more pix, more pix!

Tango

Lakewood, WA(Zone 8a)

LOL! Steal away! I love the walls, too. I'll be doing some more in the next few weeks and I'll post the process photos on this thread.
Say, didn't you email me about a question about the rocks I've got pictured on another thread?

West Central, FL(Zone 9b)

Thanks Pixy for posting this . Look forward to part 2!
I decided I 'll use this method for the low wall I wanna do. Looks like I can handle this. (Not alot of extra he man types around here to help!)

Michelle :)

Lakewood, WA(Zone 8a)

Yep, Michelle, you can do this without attending resident he-men. The worst part is lifting the bags of concrete mix into the cement mixer. When my he-man is absent, I just use the trusty shovel to shovel it in. Works just fine! Good luck!

Palm Bay, FL(Zone 9b)

Love this idea,, got my wheels turning !!

Gainesville, FL(Zone 9a)

Burning some rubber myslef. and like SB..if i cant do it alone...it aint going to get done.

Palm Bay, FL(Zone 9b)

I'm with you on that GG

Lakewood, WA(Zone 8a)

And down in Florida, you definitely would be able to do this without a footing. That makes it even easier!

West Central, FL(Zone 9b)

Now, It's just a matter of getting Dh to agree that it will look good where I want to build it! LOL!

Gig Harbor, WA(Zone 8a)

Pixy you have such great ideas and talent. Your garden bed is to die for. So, when are you going to do a garden tour of your yard? LOL
I would love to see and yes, steal ideas. LOL
Right now my yard looks awful, but it's because I leave my old plants as is till spring. The birds love to either eat from them or find refuge.
Take care,
Kathy

-South Central-, IL(Zone 6a)

Kathy, tell me about your doxie. I have a black and tan energy ball/protector named PeeWee.

This message was edited Jan 17, 2007 1:31 PM

Lakewood, WA(Zone 8a)

Hi kathy,
You can 'steal' as many ideas as you like - I consider it high praise! I don't think I could stand the stress of a garden tour. Here's a link to some photos of the open garden and pond party we had last year.
http://davesgarden.com/forums/t/537929/

And I always welcome Dgers to come by and visit. My gardens look pretty ragged right now. I generally leave my plants over the winter, too, but this year I'm still trying to amend the soil in all of the beds so many of them are dug up. I hope I am rewarded next spring with happier plants.

Gig Harbor, WA(Zone 8a)

Hi Flowrlady!!
I have 2 doxies. Moxie is a longhaired red with black ears. Longhaired's are very laid back and she is. She has a thyroid problem and loves to eat, and even tho we've cut her food way back still isn't losing. Guess she needs a doggie treadmill.:) She's 5yrs old.
My other Doxie is Breck(It's Irish for freckles) She's a chocolate/tan piebald with ticking, thus the freckle name. She's 1 yr. old and still in puppy feisty stage. She weighs 8lbs.
Both love to ride in car and Breck knows where all the driveup windows are where they gets treats and she howls when we get near them. First time she did that I thought she had fallen out of her car seat. lol
Let me know what your doxie is like.
My first doxie was a blk and tan named Mitzy and she lived for 22 yrs.
Take care,
Kathy

Thumbnail by Doxiesmom
Lakewood, WA(Zone 8a)

Such a pretty baby!!

Winnipeg, MB(Zone 4a)

You're amazing Pixy!!! Totally awesome!! This what I want to do on the farm land that we have when we start building our new home. I luv it, luv it!!!
:) Donna

Lakewood, WA(Zone 8a)

Technically they are pretty easy in my zone, Donna. Just grunt work, really,. and the 'stucco' exterior finish. I can really get into a hypnotic 'zone' when doing that. Time just flies, and my joints just hurt worse and worse. LOL!
In your zone, I think I would likely want to pour a footing because of your long freezes. Might creat a problem if the wall isn't totally stabilized.

Winnipeg, MB(Zone 4a)

What do you mean by a footing?

Lakewood, WA(Zone 8a)

What I am referring to is digging down probably 18 inches below the soil surface along where you want to build the wall. You would pour cement into the trench and then build your wall on top of that, securing it probably with rebar. You would want to consult someone who lives in your area and works with cement walls. They could give you a good idea of whether you would need one and how deep it should be. Seems like someone else had mentioned this as well, but I'm not sure if it's on this thread.

Winnipeg, MB(Zone 4a)

Thanks, Pixy for the explanation. DH will know what to do.
:) Donna

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