Updated: May 2, 2020
This year our list of outdoor projects is substantial! The yard landscaping has been the biggest part of that list and will happen in phases. Until this point, we hadn't done any landscaping to the front of the house. We have gotten quotes for the work we want done and it's just WAY out of budget. For the most basic version of hardscaping that I wanted and just the front yard, the quote we got was 10 THOUSAND DOLLARS. WHAT! That was clearly not going to work. Check out my design plans HERE.
The main reason I wanted to make this tutorial is because when we were researching how to build this, there was no information about it. Like none. Usually when we start a project we can find someone somewhere explaining how to do it or portions of it. To this day, I still have only been able to find one video even close to what we were looking to do but they built a retaining wall with a cement base and that’s not what we wanted. Everything we found was either the outdoor garden edging blocks from Home Depot or flat dry stacked stone which is not what we were looking to do.
My husband and I bought this house 2 years ago this month and since we moved in, we’ve been obsessively thinking about how we want to do the landscaping here. Ok, that’s probably just me because all I do is obsess over an idea I have until I make it come to life. It just vividly lives in my head and sometimes it changes and develops into something different but the more I'm set on something, the clearer I can see it in my head.
Here in central Texas, we have a plethora of limestone so it’s absolutely everywhere: on buildings, homes, in the ground and in gardens. I wanted to incorporate it into our landscaping at our current home but didn’t want the “same-old”.
At our previous house, we had landscaping done by a great company here in Austin, just a couple simple stone borders with Texas basalt in the beds, basic. Although I did like those, for this house I want landscaping that makes a statement. Something that makes us proud to drive home to every day. So for 2 years, we have barely touched the front of the house. Now it’s time to make our dreams come true.
We decided on a concept of a stone and metal mixture for the hardscaping. I’ve loved the look of metal borders and one day while running I saw a house with both stone and metal for their flower beds and fell in love!
This will be such an enormous project, that we’re breaking it up into phases. Phase One is the stone garden borders which is what I’ll be sharing with y’all today.
I’ll be honest, this is something that has been very intimidating for me, mainly because it’s so dang hard to find any information about how to do it! Normally when we begin a project, we have at least a good idea of how we’re going to do it but with the stone borders, we’ve had to take bits and pieces from different sources and make up the rest. So, we’re saving you the trouble of trying to figure out this process like we had to do and by the end of this video you will have all the information you need to build your very own diy stone garden border.
How to build a Stone Garden Border
Mortar Mix (Alamo Masonry Cement)
All purpose Sand
5 gallon bucket
Smaller bucket like a 1 quart bucket
Grout mixing paddle
Before you begin, make sure that your city does not have rain forecasted for at least 24 hours so that the mortar has some time to dry. It will take abut 30 days to fully cure.
STEP 1: PREPARING THE SITE
We prepared the site by pulling all the weeds and pulling out the bushes that we were replacing. This won't be necessary for everyone but we're starting new with these garden beds. If you don't need to clear what's existing, then you will go straight to digging a trench where you want the border to go. We dug ours the size of the stone plus a couple inches on each side. You only need the trench to be 2-3 inches deep. Make sure the trench is flat and leveled.
If the ground isn't fairly level where you are putting your border, you will need to dig some places deeper than others in order to make the stone lay level.
STEP 2: CREATE THE BASE
The base for what the stone will sit on is going to be comprised of two things: gravel and sand. The reason we're using these two things is to create a sturdy base for the stones to sit on while still being porous enough for water to drain under the wall and not through it.
First you will pour a layer of gravel about an inch deep along the entire trench. You will want to tamp it down and level it. We actually used pieces of heavy boards that we had on hand because we didn't want to rent or buy a tamper for this project.
Once you have the gravel in place, pour sand over all the gravel. It will disappear into all the gravel and that's ok. It's just to help fill in the cracks even more without hindering the drainage. Tamp and level again.
STEP 3: DRY STACK THE STONE
Stack the stones where they will go to build your boarder. You want to dry stack them so that you are sure of the stones you will use and that they will fit where you want them.
If you need to cut the stones to fit properly, don't worry, it's pretty easy and I'll explain how.
TO CUT STONES:
If you need to cut the stone, all you will need is a brick chisel, a 10 pound hammer and something like a door mat for the stone to sit on. The mat shouldn't be damaged in this process, it's just to minimize the shock of hitting the rock and keep it from breaking somewhere besides where you are cutting it.
Take the brick chisel and make a line where you want the stone to break. Then hit the back end of the handle with the 10 pound hammer. You will do this over and over, all the way around the stone to score it. It doesn't need to make that deep of a line for it to eventually break along the line you made.
STEP 4: MIX THE MORTAR
To mix the mortar, I used 1 part Alamo Masonry Cement, 3 parts all-purpose sand and about 1 part water (or a bit less because this can vary). Put the dry ingredients into a 5 gallon bucket and mix with a mortar paddle and drill. You'll want it to be a firm consistency, like thick peanut butter, to have structure for the stone to sit on but be moist enough to smooth and work with on the stones.
STEP 5: ASSEMBLE THE STONES AND MORTAR
Begin by placing your first stone down starting at one end of the border. Place it directly onto the gravel base (no mortar) and make sure it's level. Throughout this process you have to level, then level again and level again. The first layer of stones will only have mortar between the stones but not beneath them. They don't need mortar on the bottom because that won't help secure them. This is the reason we dug the trench so that the stones sit into the Earth and won't shift or move.
The second layer you will put a base of mortar on the top of the first layer and in between the stones again. Make sure to work quickly and one stone at a time. The mortar will start to dry quickly and you don't want it to dry before you have it assembled with the stones. Smooth the mortar between stones as you good.