I would like to use all the rocks that seem to grow here to good use. Instead of buying wood to make raised beds in the garden I would like to try building it with the stones. The previous owner left three bags of quick-crete, so I was hoping to use that. Will I have to wash all the rocks first? Do I have to put down a layer of sand before I even start? How long will it have to 'set' before I put in the dirt?
Whenever you make anything outside using concrete, you should dig into the soil and lay a foundation. Check your area to see what your frost line is, that will tell you how deep to dig. Since this isn't the foundation for a building, merely a raised garden bed, it won't need to be as deep as the frostline--but that will give you something to go by. If you fail to do this, cold freezes can crack and raise part of the raised wall. Personally, depending on the types of rocks, I'd either dry stack them, or if they're smaller, build a form out of scrap wood and make the retaining wall in sections, then just lay them together on top of the ground. This way if one lifts, you can dig to lower it; if it sinks, you can add soil to raise it; if you want to move the bed or make it bigger/smaller, that would be an option too.
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Before you build such a bed, check with tree people (arborists) and/or your county extension agent. Trees do not fare well when soil is piled up around the trunk higher than the natural root level, and often die within a few years. If it is a tree you value, you may well lose it. As for holding the rocks together, a bag of Quickcrete from the hardware store should work well. (07/01/2005)
Simply put, you will kill the tree if you build a raised flower bed around it.
To build a rock garden just think carefully about which rocks will fit best together and not be inclined to move. The natural shape of the rocks will determine this. Dependent upon rainfall and the mix of the soil you use, you may have to top up the soil after a while. There is an initial settling effect where things "fall" into place!! Don't worry, the rocks won't fall down unless you've placed them teeter totter style!
Rock gardens are beautifully interesting and always fun to start. Maybe check the library for a book on the subject and perhaps a book about flowers that thrive in shade? (If you are planning BIG rocks!)
Rock on! (07/01/2005)
Rather then placing the soil against the tree directly, form a "ring" of rocks around the tree with space to allow the tree to breathe and room to grow. Then you could make an exterior wall of rocks and fill-in with your soil mixture. Happy planting! (07/31/2005)