Walling A Garden

At Pig Row we have an abundance of one thing, not slopes but stone. We regularly dig it up, there's a monolith lurking under Andrew's shed; we discovered a small corner of this slab of sand stone during our first spring, and as we cleared it we found it was just under six foot long and gave up trying to find how far down it went. That is why the shed is there, we've even rebuilt our boundaries in dry stone walling. Sometimes walling can take a couple of days but when constructing a new wall we have to fit it around what we are doing in the garden and surprisingly, thanks to a blistering summer and wet August, this wall started it's life in April.

Selecting a location for a stone wall.

We started in an area of the garden that has been more or less neglected. Our plans are to separate it into three areas: a cottage garden, a large chicken pen and a fruit cage. The wall will separate the cottage garden from the chickens but will also act as a windbreak in winter towards the house and it also got rid of a lot rubble we had from stripping some of the walls in the house.

Starting a foundation for a dry stone wall with hardcore.

We dug a trench, 18 inches deep, and back filled with building rubble. This will act also as a soak away to funnel surface water from the back of the house.

Using what you have to build walls.

Over the last few years we have learnt about the basics of dry stone walling and know that any wall needs a good foundation. We laid broken up concrete flag for our base, bringing the foundation up to soil level. We have to point something out here, we are not professional dry stone builders, we still make mistakes, we are still learning but we have plenty of stone to learn with and the wall we built last summer is still standing.

Don't underestimate how much stone is need to dry stone.

We then started to use large pieces of stone to create a two skin stone wall, the cavity was then filled with rubble and bits of stone. You want to create a wall that tapers up, an upside down 'V'. This allows water to run off and not end up in the cavity to freeze in winter and blow out the wall. It also means that as the wall grows upwards, the weight of it pushes down rather than out and prevents the stone from collapsing under its own weight. Even out house tapers in and the stone faced in a very Yorkshire manner to prevent rain from collecting on its surface.

Key stones help to tie the walls together.

We also use large key stones as we go a long to tie the two sides of the wall together. You can see above these pieces of stone laid out at the far end.

Build walls in sections.

The wall is built slowly in sections and topped off with stone set on its end. This makes the top of the wall water proof. We have also left tiny gaps between the stone to plant in next spring. We'd like to say this was intentional but they weren't, and rather than sulk about it we want to take this opportunity to plant in mosses and small flowering perennials that love being in walls.

Half the wall finished.

We have already started to see the impact of the wall as it retains heat during the day releasing it at night into the cottage garden and will also protect our chickens from the worst of the north winds.