set level lines to build a stone planter
Photo: Kolin Smith

Step 4: Set Level Lines

Once the area is roughly excavated, set up a grid of level lines so that you can check your depth. Drive stakes near each corner and every 2 feet along the sides. Beginning at the uphill end, stretch the line between two stakes about 4 inches off the ground and level it using a line level. Instead of tying the line in place, notch each stake so that you can easily unhook it while leveling the base. Work your way around the perimeter line, leveling as you go, then add level lines stretching side to side to create the grid. Measure from the level lines to the base of the excavated area. Dig or fill as necessary until the entire base is level and equidistant from the lines.
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    Tools List

    • spade
    • garden stakes
    • mason line and level
      mason line and line level
    • square 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