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How to Build a Stone Planter

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Your driveway may seem to be a magnet for guests who fly by it. A stepped stone planter can be placed along your driveway and you will instantly have a distinctive guidepost. You can also add some color to the driveway with plants or the welcome light of a lamppost. You can customize the look of your home by choosing from a variety of styles and sizes of blocks. Watch Mark Powers, senior technical editor, creates this yard monument that will be noticed by all passersby.

  • Friday: The outline of the planter
  • Saturday: Excavate the base and level it
  • Sunday: Fill the planters and build the walls

Step 1: Get to Know Your Blocks

Blocks of different lengths can be used to create a natural-looking and random pattern. You will need to cleave some blocks in order to create a second texture face. This can be done at corners and where perpendicular walls intersect. Set a large mason’s score line on the block and use a maul for splitting it. Use the claw of your brickhammer to remove any jagged pieces. You can remove tabs from our blocks to make convex walls.

Step 2: Place the planter

Place four blocks at each end and place them in the corners of your rough outline. You can place blocks of different sizes between them. Keep the sides parallel. Divide the interior with two walls to create equal-sized planters. Every other course will be over the main walls so make sure there are no gaps between the blocks. You will need to adjust the width of your planter if this happens. Mark the outline once you have completed the layout.

Step 3: Dig the base

You will need to excavate the area. Start at the lowest point of any slope and dig down to the loamy topsoil. It may take 6 inches depending on the location.

Step 5: Set Level Lines

After the area has been excavated to a reasonable extent, you will need to set up a grid with level lines in order for you check your depth. Place stakes at each corner, and at every 2 feet on the sides. Start at the top and extend the line between the stakes, about 4 inches above the ground. Then level it with a line level. Instead of tying it in place, you can notch each stake to make it easy to unhook while leveling the base. You will work your way around the perimeter line leveling as you go. Next, add level lines running side-by-side to make the grid. From the top of the excavated area, measure from the level lines. Fill as needed until the base is level.

Step 5: Add the Paver Base

Lay 3 inches of paver base (3/4-inch crushed stone or dust) in the excavated area to create a solid, draining foundation for the structure.

Step 6: Level and Tamp the Base

Use a tamper to compact the base. To ensure the bed is level, check the distance between the base and the mason lines often. You can add layers of paver base to the ground and then tamp each layer until it reaches half the depth of one block plus 1 inch at its lowest point.

Step 7: Lay the leveling sand

Add a 1-inch layer leveling sand to make it easier to fine-tune the blocks’ height. Use a steel rake to distribute it evenly. At the ground’s lowest point, the bed should be half the thickness of one block.

Step 8: Lay the first course

Place the foundation block at the highest point on the ground. Set the block in the sand with a rubber mallet. To check the block from side to side, corner to corner, and front to back, use a level. To avoid the sand from dragging between the blocks, hold the next block in front of the first one and then drop it in its place. To check the blocks, level and set each block. To ensure that the tops are flush, run your hand across the joint. The remaining blocks should be set in the same manner, with the textured faces facing outward along the perimeter. The interior walls should have the textured faces oriented towards the shorter end of the planter.

Step 9: Stack the courses

Stagger the joints of each course to create dry stacking and strength. Lay beads of masonry adhesive on each other course. Use a caulk gun to “tie” the interior walls around the perimeter. Continue building until you reach the end of each tier, which includes the cap layer.

Step 10: Fill the planters

Drainage stone is used to fill the planters up to the top. This will prevent them from retaining water and freezing, cracking or freezing. This strengthens the structure.

Step 11: Prepare the Planters

Laying landscaping fabric over each planter will help to contain the soil. You can trim the fabric just below the wall’s surface with a pair of scissors. The next course will cover it. You can make a lamppost-shaped structure by cutting a hole in your fabric large enough to pass over it.

Step 12: Lay the final courses

The final two courses should be layered on top of the landscaping fabric. Finally, add the cap blocks. Cut them as you need. You can also create custom cuts by cutting a channel V-shaped all the way around the block. Add potting soil to the planters and then plant your favorite flowers.

Tools & Materials

  • Spade
  • Stakes
  • Mason line and level
  • Shovel
  • Hand tampering
  • Metal rake
  • Rubber mallet
  • Level – 2 feet
  • mason’s maul and chisel
  • Brick hammer
  • Caulk gun
  • Scissors

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