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A dry stone wall can be used to support slopes in the garden or to delimit certain sections. Building such a wall is relatively easy. We explain step by step how to do it.

In a nutshell

  • In a dry wall, the stones lie dry, i.e. without mortar, on top of each other
  • The joints are not grouted afterwards
  • This creates shelters for insects and small animals
  • The wall construction can even be planted
  • A garden design that is as ecological as it is visually attractive is thus possible

basic principle

Usually the bricks of walls are connected with each other by a mortar. The mortar acts like a kind of glue that fixes the individual stones and sticks them together. The stability of such constructions is amazing. Just think of house walls, which not only do not collapse despite being relatively high, but also support the whole house as a skeleton. However, it is also possible to build relatively stable walls without any mortar at all. One speaks then of a so-called dry wall - precisely because no moist binding agent or adhesive is used, but the stones are "dry" layered on top of each other. This type of wall is now particularly popular in our gardens. They are used there in many ways, for example as:

  • retaining walls for slopes and earthworks,
  • Enclosures for certain garden areas,
  • Design features of a natural stone garden,
  • Separator against unsightly garden parts (compost),
  • edging of raised beds,
  • and support elements for terraces.

The construction of dry stone walls is relatively easy. It can also be done by laymen without much manual experience. However, patience and a lot of tinkering are required.

Notice: The great art of drywall construction with stones is to place the individual stones on top of each other in such a way that a stable wall can be created. Since mostly uneven natural stones are used, this is not possible without constant trial and error.


In order to be able to build a dry wall, you don't need a lot of material or accessories. The following short list covers essentially everything that is needed in terms of building materials and tools:

  • natural stones
  • fine gravel or construction sand
  • level
  • pounder
  • shovel or spade
  • rubber mallet
  • line
  • four wooden sticks to attach the cord
Natural stones, granite

The central elements of any drywall construction for the garden are of course the natural stones. These are untreated or unhewn stones in different shapes and sizes - stones just as they are found in nature. Since it would usually be very time-consuming to look for them in the fields, we recommend going to the garden center or hardware store. The stones can be ordered there in different versions. Most of the time they will be delivered directly to you.

Tip: When choosing the stones, you should make sure that they match the rest of the garden design. This is the only way to create a truly harmonious, coherent picture.

Instructions for construction

The instructions follow the graphic step by step. It serves as an orientation as to which work needs to be done when in order to achieve a stable result. However, the graphic can only provide a schematic image and therefore does not take into account how the individual stones have to be layered on top of each other.

lay foundation

A foundation is essential so that the dry stone wall can later stand as stable as possible. In a first step, therefore, mark out the dimensions of the foundation with the help of a cord. The area of the foundation should protrude beyond the later wall base area on all four sides by at least five centimeters. The foundation must therefore be wider than the base of the wall. Mark out a rectangle with the string. The four wooden sticks are used to attach the cord. It is best to use a spirit level to align the cord.

The next step is to dig the foundation. To do this, the ground area within the cord boundary is dug out with a spade or shovel to a depth of around 40 centimeters. One builds as a small ditch. This trench is then filled with fine gravel or building sand to a height of 30 centimetres. Then you have to compact the gravel or sand well with a rammer, which you can borrow from any hardware store. The foundation for the dry stone wall has been laid.

Lay the first row of stones

The first row of stones, lying directly on the foundation, is something like the base of the entire wall. That is why you should be very careful when laying the stones. The stones are lined up in such a way that the joints between them are as small as possible. Ideally, the installation is carried out in the middle of the foundation. So there is some free space on the sides. Usually several attempts or attempts are necessary to find exactly the stones that go well together. It is recommended to press the stones firmly into the ground or tap them with a rubber mallet. When you have finished the first row, fill in the sides with the previously excavated soil. Here it also makes sense to compact the soil. Also, the infill should protrude a few inches above the soil surface.

finish building the wall

As already mentioned, building a dry stone wall usually does not work without tinkering and trying out. It is quite simply important that the differently shaped stones fit together as well as possible. You should therefore take your time when layering the stones and also be patient. When building, it is important that the individual stones lie firmly and do not wobble. In addition, it is essential to observe something like a golden rule when building a wall: the stones must always be stacked on top of each other. Under no circumstances should there be a continuous joint from bottom to top. We recommend that you should not build the drywall higher than one meter, otherwise there could be problems with the statics. Once you have laid the last row of stones, you can place cover plates on top. However, there is usually no way around fixing it with mortar.

plant wall

Building the drywall is the first part of the job, so to speak, and the design after building is the second part. Because: If you like, you can also plant plants on the dry wall. To do this, a mixture of soil and humus is spread into parts of the joints. You should immediately water the mixture well. You can then put smaller plants or seeds in this plant substrate. It is important that the plants you choose need as little water as possible in order to grow and thrive. Depending on the location, they should also be able to cope well with sun and heat. Incidentally, manual planting does not have to be. Sooner or later, various plants will automatically grow in the joints.

frequently asked Questions

Which animals typically settle in the joints of dry stone walls?

The joints and cracks of dry stone walls are perfect retreats and settlements for a large number of animals. Insects in particular, from bumblebees to spiders, will crawl into them. The wall can therefore be compared to an insect hotel. Since the stones heat up relatively strongly from the sun and also store this heat well, the construction will also become a home for lizards or slowworms.

How can plants grow in the joints and cracks?

Since the joints between the stones are not filled, the wind can inevitably carry dirt and humus there. Over time, this more or less inevitably develops into a substrate that can be used by certain plants. The natural flight of seeds then ensures that plants grow there. Which plants will grow in and out of the joints depends on the surrounding flora.

Do natural stones have to be used to build a dry stone wall?

No. As a rule, natural stones look better and appear more natural in a garden. Natural stones also have the advantage that they can be better misunderstood. Irrespective of this, standardized stones or stone elements that are suitable for a stable wall have long been available in hardware stores and garden centers. If you want to work with these materials, you can also use the above instructions and graphics as a guide.

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