Seeking advice on building brick raised garden bed on slope

MSP_JSP(7)April 18, 2014


This is the first of what we imagine will be many posts. My husband I are are attempting to build a raised garden bed out of decorative brick. The bed will be used for urban homesteading - edibles and flowers. Our yard is quite sloped at the end (you can get a reference in the photos from the slope of the fence). What was intended to be a 12 inch high bed at the flat end of the yard, has turned into quite a tall wall at the sloped end. We did a great job of building a level, in not entirely straight wall last weekend. However, we are now concerned that the wall will topple over once it is filled with the weight of settling dirt.

Our question: Do we need to secure the brick with a smear or mortar or silicone? Would lining the inner walls with landscaping cloth be enough?

Thanks in advance for any advice.


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don't use direct line.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2014 at 11:44PM
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are those just 4x8 bricks with no interlocking mechanisms? Yeah, wrong material for the application you have going at the end. Even mortaring them together (silicon will accomplish nothing), you're attempting to build a single-wythe brick wall as a retaining wall. Nope.

And why can I see daylight through the back corner? That can't be good.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2014 at 11:16AM
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Thanks for the frank assessment, marcinde.

You can see gaps at the back corner because we haven't finished. We needed to get a rotor blade that could cut masonry, but we were trying to lay things out to get a sense of the sizes we needed.

Yeah, the material we used was labeled "wall" at the big-box store where we got them. Perhaps misleading.

Today we had a nice long talk at the local, independent garden center, showing them pictures of what we've done so far. They gave some advice on how we could salvage the work we've done and make use of the materials we have. First, they suggested using a surface bond on the inside of the walls, rather than dismantling the wall and using mortar. Next, line the inside with landscaper's cloth. Then, make sure to really tamp down that earth that we use to fill the bed, tamping down each layer as we go. Then leave it all for a week to further settle, before we start planting.

We are going to give it a go, and hope for the best. But we welcome further input.


    Bookmark   April 19, 2014 at 1:56PM
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brit5467(7b/8a Coastal VA)

Since I was just about to post my own question about problems with my raised bed (done with landscape timbers)...I will say this much. If it were me, I would definitely line it with something to make it somewhat waterproof. I have a problem with losing water from the 'cracks' between my timbers. Just MHO.

Good luck and Welcome to GW !!
bonnie (aka brit5467)

Oh.....and remember this ~ it's much easier to do it right the first time than to be in my predicament. I need to fix mine now but it's already established and I don't know what to

    Bookmark   April 19, 2014 at 5:30PM
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Thanks for the encouragement, bonnie. Agreed on doing it right the first time, but let us remember that life is full of trial and error, and there will be some errors! In the words of SNL's Stuart Smalley, "And that's...okay." Good luck to you, too!

    Bookmark   April 19, 2014 at 7:35PM
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brit5467(7b/8a Coastal VA) made me smile :)


    Bookmark   April 20, 2014 at 1:19PM
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ok, IF IT WERE ME, here's what I'd do. Where you come up out of grade really far I'd do a U-shaped buttress wall of 4x4 cedar timers spiked into the ground with rebar to keep the back wall from blowing out. I'd use the heck out of it this year, and then next year I'd by a pallet or two of actual wall blocks (like the link below) and put this year's bricks on craigslist or freecycle.

hey, gardening's a journey, right?

Here is a link that might be useful: walls

    Bookmark   April 20, 2014 at 2:17PM
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Thanks, marcinde. We do hope this project isn't what we eventually post to the "My Stupidest Gardening Mistake - or- We Were Once All Newbies" thread (

I've posted a picture of the progress we've made so far. Per the local, independent garden center's advice, we've put an application of surface bonding cement on the inside. After getting the corners how we wanted them with a rotor blade and chisel, that is - all snug and tight. Only a few hours of curing, and it feels SOLID! But I guess only time will tell.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2014 at 4:53PM
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PKponder TX(7b)

I just wanted to say, it looks great and I hope that it works out for you!

    Bookmark   April 21, 2014 at 5:44PM
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As cool air seeks the lowest level. it is sometimes useful in structures like this to give cool air a place to escape--it helps to minimize early and late-season frost damage.

How much water you want to allow to escape depends on your climate, but you don't want it turning into a bog, either.

Maybe someone skilled in bricklaying will be able to give you more input regarding these issues.

It does look nice already, though. Where the bricks are still loose you could always make changes next year if needed.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2014 at 6:24PM
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