Step 1: Know Your Blocks

person fitting blocks to build a stone planter
Photo: Kolin Smith
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Using blocks of various lengths allows for a natural-looking, randomized pattern. With only one textured face to work with, you'll need to cleave certain blocks to get a second face that can be exposed—at corners or anywhere perpendicular walls meet. To do so, set a wide mason's chisel on the score line and strike it with a maul to split the block. Clean off any jagged chunks with the claw of your brick hammer. Our blocks have tabs that can be knocked off to create the necessary wedge shape for convex walls.
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    Tools List

    • spade
      spade
    • garden stakes
      stakes
    • mason line and level
      mason line and line level
    • square shovel
      shovel
    • tamper
      hand tamper
    • iron rake
      steel rake
    • mallet
      rubber mallet
    • two-foot level
      2-foot level
    • mason's chisel and maul
      mason's chisel and maul
    • brick hammer
      brick hammer
    • caulk gun
      caulk gun
    • craft scissors
      scissors to cut the landscape fabric

    Shopping List

    Cast-concrete blocks
    Choose those meant for freestanding and retaining walls, not walkway pavers. To calculate how many blocks you need, divide the area, in inches, of each wall by the area of the largest block's face. Add 10 percent to cover cuts and breakage.

    Paver base
    A 50-pound bag covers 2 square feet at 3 inches deep

    Leveling sand
    A 50-pound bag covers about 6 square feet at 1 inch deep. Drainage stone
    Get enough to fill your planters to three courses from the top.

    Masonry construction adhesive

    Landscape fabric

    Topsoil