Step 8: Lay the First Course

lay the first course to build a stone planter
Photo: Kolin Smith
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Place the first block on the foundation at the highest point of ground level. Use a rubber mallet to set the block in the sand. Use a level to check it side to side, front to back, and corner to corner. Hold the next block beside the first and drop it in place to avoid dragging the sand between blocks. Level and set the block, and place a level across both blocks to check them. Run your hand across the joint and use the level as a straightedge to make sure the tops of the blocks are flush. Set the remaining blocks in the same way, taking care to orient the textured faces outward along the perimeter. For the interior walls, the textured faces should be oriented toward the short end of the planter.
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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