Virginia has years of experience with gardening and wild pests in New Hampshire, Kansas, Australia, and other locales.
Building Stone Borders for Flowerbeds
Using stone to make low borders around planting areas gives a wonderfully natural look. It sure beats all the plastic and metal edgings that you can buy. In New England and other regions with plenty of rocks, you can collect the stone from your own yard.
I started building these miniature stone walls about six years ago. Haven't stopped. I love the sturdy look of the vintage walls seen throughout New Hampshire and other states around there. Now I have my own version right in my yard.
Here are my tips for constructing a dry, fieldstone border for your landscaping. The photo shows my planting beds by the back deck with the walls I built.
Where to Start?
- Determine the outline of your planting space and mark in the dirt where you want the border to be. You can also use the garden hose to lay out the line. I recommend a graceful curve. You might prefer straight lines with 90 degree corners. It's your project so do it the way you want.
Since I use field stone, it doesn't lend itself to sharp corners. That's my experience, anyway.
- Gather the stones. At first we just picked them up as we cleared areas for planting. We found more once we started digging. Collect both large and small stones.
Where I am in New Hampshire is old glacial area, so the rocks are granite and rounded in shape. Do not collect stones from old walls, even if those are tumbling down. In NH, it is against the law. Those are historical and protected.
- Pile the rocks near the area where you want to build your low wall. No use moving them more often than necessary (unless you want the extra exercise).
Instructional Books for Building Stone Walls
Dry stone walls don't use concrete to hold them together.
Laying the Base and Building Upwards
- I like to put 3 or 4 stones across to form the base. I use some of the smaller stones here. See the Photo Section below for the visual on this.
- The next layer of stones needs to fit the contours of the first layer and interlock with each of the stones in the 2nd layer. Put small stones in between to get larger ones level or to fill gaps between them.
- If you slant the stones slightly towards the center, then they are less likely to fall out of the wall.
- Keep adding layers. Overlap them across pairs of stones in the layer below.
See My Stone Borders Being Built - Photos by Virginia Allain
Save Your Knees and Back
I like a thick kneeling pad that I can easily move around. Mine has a nifty handle to grab when you are moving along. It also makes it handy for hanging on the wall of your garden shed.
Combination Kneeling Pad and Bench
You can find a low seat that flips over to convert to a kneeling pad. This saves your back as well as your knees. The support for the seat gives you a handhold to use when you get up from a kneeling position.
These are popular with all kinds of workers from carpenters, tile and brick layers, and gardeners. They are usually of rubber and strap onto your knees. With these, you can move around without having to drag a kneeling pad or a garden seat to different locations.
Have You Built a Stone Wall?
I'm using rounded field stone. If you have flat stones like flagstone, it makes it easier.
Videos Showing How to Build a Dry Stone Wall
These videos show a regular sized wall, so just apply the same principles but on a smaller scale for a flower bed border made of stacked stone.
I see some people just put a single stone to form a border for planting areas. That's fine, especially if you don't have very many stones.
My preference is to mimic the stone walls that you see around New England. These go back to the colonial days. Each farmer had to clear the trees and drag large and small stones out of the field to plow for crops. Putting the stones to use as a wall for the field was a natural way to go.
Enjoy the Beauty of Stone Walls - with these books
Driving through New England, I'm enchanted by the centuries-old rock walls along the country roads. There is so much history here and if only these old stones could tell us their stories.
A Pictorial History of New England Stone Walls
How to Make a Dry Stacked Field Stone Wall - Video Tutorial
Be Sure to Wear Gloves - To Protect Your Hands
Building More Stone Borders
I gathered quite a few stones last fall, so this summer I can continue building my rock borders. Some of the early ones need reworked. I may never get finished.
Volunteers Learn Dry Stone Wall Techniques
More Information about Building a Stone Wall
- How to Build Stone Walls and Steps
Easy step by step instructions on how to build a stone wall and steps using versa-lock blocks.
- Build Your Own Dry Stone Wall
Home projects are usually left in the hands of the professionals, but a little bit of garden landscaping is often one that most people can tackle on their own.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2013 Virginia Allain
Tell Me about Your Landscaping Plans
Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on April 19, 2018:
I have been collecting rocks for many years and use them in our landscaping. Love using rocks as borders or even as focal points.
Rochelle Frank from California Gold Country on April 14, 2018:
You did a nice job on those borders and walls. My husband has built a lot of them around our place, as we have lots of rocks. We live near Yosemite which also has a lot of rocks-- thank goodness they are too big for him to move.
Virginia Allain (author) from Central Florida on July 31, 2015:
I'd love to have a small stream. We do have a magnificent lake just a half mile walk away.
Virginia Allain (author) from Central Florida on July 31, 2015:
I'm really fortunate that in New Hampshire there are plenty of free stones. I pick them up when I go walking.
Kathryn Grace from San Francisco on July 30, 2015:
I've never known a gardener who thought her garden was finished, so I can understand how you feel those walls may never be finished, either.
What a beautiful place you live! I thought I heard a brook while I read.
peachy from Home Sweet Home on July 30, 2015:
how much money did you paid for the stones? Here a bag cost $50. A garden needs at least 20 packs for me.
Lorraine on December 29, 2014:
Hello from Texas,Can you please tell me who maybe in my great grtrhmoadens cemetery lot-south haif of lot#23 range 10 in Holmes County,near the town of Millersburg MILLERSBURG CEMETERY . I have her certificate of ownership papers dated 4-20-1895. She(Paulina Brownsberger ) her burial is in the Massillon cemetery with my great grandfather Joseph Brownsberger. I am unable to find info. on line. Thank you. DEBRA CAMPBELL IN HOUSTON
Peggy Hazelwood from Desert Southwest, U.S.A. on July 15, 2014:
I love the look of stone borders and walls. That's a whole lotta work!
Lee Hansen from Vermont on July 15, 2014:
We like to use native stones to build rock walls in our gardens also. Every couple years they need to be redone - or at least that's what my stone artist husband claims :D. I think he just likes the process of fitting the stones together artistically. I just love stone walls and rock borders, the more informal the better.
DebW07 on June 20, 2013:
I like having a few stones and stone walls in my garden, it gives it a unique look. Nice job!
anonymous on June 19, 2013:
I love the stone walls and borders. Thanks for showing how to do it!
DebMartin on June 19, 2013:
Stones and rocks are just the best for all kinds of borders. I love 'em!
MarcellaCarlton on June 19, 2013:
I have cement blocks all around my flower and veggie beds. I don't plan to change them, it was way to much work getting them there in the first place. Warning: They do leech out lime so plant acid lovers near the back! Love your rock borders.
writerkath on June 19, 2013:
John made 2 really nice borders around the gardens in our front yard - he found a bunch of old bricks under a porch, and had enough to use them as the outline. It really does neaten up the patch!
Virginia Allain (author) from Central Florida on June 19, 2013:
@rattie lm: You are right, there's nothing as great as fresh-from-the-garden veggies. I have so many big pine trees that vegetables aren't happy here. I plant flowers that like shade and also blueberry and blackberry bushes.
rattie lm on June 19, 2013:
My garden takes care of itself mostly, but I do have plans to make a little communal veggie garden out the front to try to encourage my ever-busy neighbours to discover how much better fresh vegetables taste.
lesliesinclair on June 18, 2013:
When I get into a house I plan to do a bit of landscaping, mostly to create a serene garden patio space.
Virginia Allain (author) from Central Florida on June 18, 2013:
@jlshernandez: Sounds lovely.
jlshernandez on June 18, 2013:
I bought stone edger from the local nursery which look like real stones. Each one is about 12 inches long and have the look of 3 or 4 rocks abutting together. Each one overlaps the next one and can be curved. I built one around a tree and around some shrubs.
CannyGranny on June 14, 2013:
Sigh. I'm in a small flat now and miss my stone borders
Virginia Allain (author) from Central Florida on June 05, 2013:
@suepogson: I visited Yorkshire once and enjoyed it tremendously. Maybe you'll want to make some rock borders.
suepogson on June 04, 2013:
My father came from Yorkshire, England - and I remember the amazing dry stone walls from visits as a child. I love you miniature versions.
Susanna Duffy from Melbourne Australia on May 20, 2013:
You inspire me to start my own stone borders