How to Build a Fieldstone Garden Wall
This Post May Contain Affiliate Links. Please Read my Disclosure Policy.
If you would like to add a finishing touch around the garden beds in your yard, consider adding a fieldstone garden wall. A low fieldstone wall has a rough, natural appearance that blends well with a variety of landscaping projects around your home.
No contractor, mortar or concrete needed to build a dry-laid fieldstone wall. This step-by-step-photo tutorial will show you how easy it is to this style of a retaining wall.
I am not landscaping pro, but if I can create a low stone wall around the garden beds in my yard, you can too. I have gotten pretty good at building freestanding, no mortar, dry-stacked stone walls.
Using fieldstones to create a low wall is a great way of defining gardens. The wall adds a decorative and functional element at the same time.
How to Build a Fieldstone Garden Wall
When shopping for fieldstones, be picky. Pretend you are a contractor and ask to see what is in the center of the pallet.
In every pallet I received, the center was where big and uneven stones were hidden. Some can be broken apart with a hammer and pick axe, but the rest are unusable for building a garden wall.
The hardest part of the project is literally getting the stones from where they are delivered to your home – usually your driveway and then using a wheelbarrow to get them to where you want the wall.
Once the stones are where you need them, building the wall is like putting a jigsaw puzzle together.
- Pallet of Fieldstones – the amount will depend on how long and high the wall you want to build will be.
- Hammer and chisel
- Optional: Pea gravel and a bubble level
- Bring all the stones to the area you are building the wall and spread them out so you can see all the sizes and shapes.
Bring all the stones to the area you are building the wall and spread them out so you can see all the sizes and shapes.
Time needed: 8 hours.
How to Build an Fieldstone Wall Around a Garden
- Move Stones to Garden Area
Bring all the stones to the area you want the wall and spread them out so you can see all the sizes and shapes.
- Dig a Trench
Dig a trench around the bed. You want it to be wide enough so two stones will fit side by side and about 4 – 6 inches in depth. Doing this is needed to ensure the stability of the wall.
Note: When building this type of dry laid wall, I have found that creating a taller wall, you will need to dig your trench deeper so the wall has a good solid foundation.
- Add Pea Gravel
Optional: Lay a 1-inch thick layer of pea gravel or small stones in trench – smooth it with the back side of a shovel to level. (I have only used pea gravel on one wall I built.)
If the grade of the trench is on a slope, you can fill the lower areas with more of the small stone or crushed stone to level the inside the trench to create a level surface to start stacking the stones.
- Add Stones
Start to build the wall with the largest stones as the base. The stones in the photos have dirt on them because I just dug them up to rebuild the wall.
- Add Another Layer of Stones
As you build each layer – try to find stones that will fit together. Use a hammer and chisel to create the size you need. I only needed to do this a few times.
- Continue Add Layers
Complete each layer before adding the next- this will help keep the wall level. If you want to make sure the wall is level, you can use a bubble level to check. I never used one – I just eye-balled it.
- Add Capstones
When you reach the wall height you want, choose the nicest and flattest stones for the top of the wall.
If you are not making a full circle wall and will have open ends in your wall – you can step-stone them so they end in the grass or you can butt the ends of the stones right against a sidewalk or building.
- All Done
That’s it. Done! It is really not that hard and since no mortar or special tools are needed – the only cost is for the stones and pea gravel.
From time to time I have noticed a top flat stone has moved. It is simple to just pick it up and place it right back into place.
Building a stone garden wall into a curve instead of a straight line makes it look much more natural and inviting.
Add a Stone Walkway Around Your Fieldstone Garden Walls
To accent your garden wall, you can create paving stone pathways around or near then using, decorative stepping stones or flagstones and river rock.
Flagstones are flat and cut to the same size – usually rectangular.
More About Using Natural Stones in Landscaping
I used Pennsylvania fieldstone to build my garden wall, but they are not the only stone you can use to build natural stone walls. PA fieldstone is a particular type of fieldstone that has smaller, flatter stones. It has a dark gray color.
Most fieldstones come on wooden pallets that you can buy at a local stone yard or the home improvement store. These smaller sized fieldstones are good for building smaller scale walls with no mortar.
There are flat fieldstone pallets and mixed sized fieldstone pallets.
I have used both, but prefer the look of the flat smooth stones shown above. They are more uniform in size and height which makes them much easier to fit together as you build your wall.
I used Colonial Grey fieldstone, but they also come in a lighter rusty orange color called Laurel Mountain. These are mixed height stones that I find are harder to fit together and level.
If you are would like to make a stacked stone garden wall for your yard, I would suggest first taking a trip to your local stone yard and home improvement stores to see what type of stones are available in your area, as the selection can vary by the locale.
You May Also Like:
Your directions are very clear- thank you! Am I correct that your wall is free-standing and not anchored by the dirt of a raised bed? Does having the stones two wide, rather than a single stone wide, help with stability? We are about to embark on this project- and were concerned that we can’t easily raise our garden beds to anchor a wall in.
Hi Mara – Yes – the wall is freestanding. It framing the raised bed. It is not anchored to anything. Having the stones – 2-wide is what gives the wall stability. Also using the flattest stones you can fine will create a long lasting garden wall.
How did estimate the amount of stone you need?
Hi Seanan – Good question. :-) I didn’t calculate this myself. I took the measurements to the stone yard and had them figure out how many pallets of stone I would need. This way I wouldn’t order too much or too little.
if a wall is 1′ high (for example) how many linear feet will i get from 1 pallet?
Hi – Your article on building a low stone garden wall is great! Note you say you used pea gravel on only one wall, among many. I would assume that using pea gravel or some other base would help in leveling – do you agree? Also, I totally agree with you about the merits of verbena as a summer-long drought-resistant sun-loving annual. Also, deer-proof! Every year I look for white verbena, along with pink, lavender. Combine with flowering vinca. Will take picture after many many hours of building wall, planting up for the summer. Thank you for posting such great instructions on the wall!
Very helpful for a non contractor. I would hire you to do my yard, but I am looking forward for the challenge. Gardening for me is like a therapy so I look forward to doing it. The information and photos of building a wall was very useful. I thought you just buy the stones and put them down, never know about digging trench and leveling stone and all that. This was extremely useful and will be my point of reference when I decide to do my wall. Thanks much
Thank you so much for this guide! Super helpful. Curious about how well the top stones held in place without any mortar. Any additional tips for keeping them secure and able to stand up to abuse by kids at play?
Hi Dave – As long as you don’t make the walls tall, they will stay in place for a very long time. My kids played around them and once or twice a top stone would get moved or fall off, but since there is no mortar – so easy to put right back into place. As far as tips on keeping them secure. Try to buy the stones that are the flattest. Stones that are not flat, will not be able to sit on top of one and another without movement or twirling (for lack of a better term) Be picky about the stones you buy. Flat are the best. Even if they are large, you can give them a whack with a hammer to break it into a few smaller pieces.
Where did you get your fieldstone? Did you shop around?
Hi Deanna – I bought the fieldstone at a local stone yard in Pennsylvania. I learned to be choosy about the palettes since some suppliers place the uneven and ugly stones in the center. Find out where the local landscapers buy stone and you should find many options of stone and better quality then say Home Depot would sell.
Gorgeous wall! Question: now that you’ve had it up for several years, have you noticed that it’s shifted at all from the weight of the dirt behind it?
Hi Alison –
I created a few walls like this and they never shifted when the walls were low, about 1 foot. I created one in my front yard where the ground angled down from the house so it was a retaining wall that was 3 feet high in some places. It did shift, but only after 18 years when the bushes planted inside’s roots started to get too big. Another smaller wall in my front yard, I never built as well and it did fall into itself from the weight of snow and ice. The bed was not filled with dirt, so that could have been the reason it fell it. If I had built up the dirt, it would have been fine.
The only negative I found about building the fieldstone walls was the quality of the stones themselves. Make sure they are flat. Many stone retailers will place the uneven stones/rocks in the center of the pallet where they are hidden. They are not useable. I would ask to see the inside of the pallet before buying.
What was the average cost per pallet of field stone?
Hi David – I did the wall quite a few years ago. I think a full pallet of the fieldstone ran about $175.00. It is probably more now.
I’m going to be a copy cat. I have a long, uncared for area on the side of my house to create this. Glad I read your post. I didn’t realize I needed to dig a trench. Great job, thank you.
Hi Nestor – Digging a slight ditch will help keep the stones more stable. It does not have to be deep.
WOW! I can do that. Thanks for a great article. I have been visiting a local stone yard with schemes and dreams. I now have a plan of action. Thanks to you!
Hi Fran – Building the Fieldstone walls are truly as easy as 1 2 3… to put together. Over the years when we changed around things in the backyard, the original walls were easy to take apart and re-do in new backyard locations. Win Win all around!
Very nice article, totally what I was looking for.
Diane, Thank you so much for your clear instructions and tips. This is the low garden wall I’ve been wishing for. Your pictures perfectly illustrate what you mean, and the results look great. Your tip about the stones in the middle of the pallet is a good one. I bet the oversized ones are hidden in the bottom center.
Thanks for your smart, well written blog.
We have one of these walls out front–I’ve heard them called roman walls, too. Ours is partly next to the driveway and it took quite a hit from the snowplow :-( I’ll get the energy to fix it someday!
Lovely!! When I i drive through an older part of Columbus (Oh) my favorite thing is seeing the old fieldstone fences. They’ve been there for decades! We just planted a hydrangea this year (my pyracantha didnt make it through this harsh winter, so we replaced it). And my peony had loads of blooms this year – first time!! Your flowers are an inspiration.
Oh what a lot of work you did and then redid! I so applaud you….. gee whiz I feel old now. Those borders and wall is so gorgeous.
You did a most fabulous job.
Lovely! I have some plans for landscaping our new home up north. I probably won’t get to start until this fall. Right now, it’s a large space with some nice trees with LOTS of potential.
I just finished a flagstone wall flower garden that turned out fabulous. I’m 66 years old and it was my 1st but will be doing more soon. I just love the natural look.
Hi Donna – Isn’t a great feeling to know you did something yourself and it came out great, plus saved you hundreds since you didn’t have to hire anybody. After I did my first one, I created quite a few more around both the front and back yards of my house. I think flowers look so nice when surrounded by stone. Enjoy them and your new wall this summer.
I so desperately need to do this with stone I have left over from building our house. I think I’m in for a lot of chiseling though! Great post!
Great post! one of my neighbors has a beautiful fieldstone wall he built himself. You made it look easy. Thinking where I might be able to add one…
Wonderful looking walls, and good tips………especially inspecting the interior of the pallet. Would love to do this, but the logistics are against me – too far to haul the stone. Won’t rule it out completely, though. I could tote lighter loads! Keep open to the possibilities, right?!
Beautiful. I just love everything you do and this was such a wonderfully detailed post. I enjoyed the peeks of your yard and flowers too. My Verbena is going crazy this year already.. I might have to trim it back!