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A garden wall from broken concrete.

CREATING AN elegant and enduring retaining wall out of concrete rubble is a satisfying recycling project that turns would-be trash into landscape art. Following the simple steps shown here, you can use broken concrete to enclose raised beds or terrace an embankment without using any mortar.

The toughest part of the process may be scavenging the concrete pieces. If you're taking out a sidewalk, you'll have a supply at hand. Otherwise, keep an eye on nearby remodeling projects or check with demolition companies and masonry contractors.

Sidewalk concrete is the best for making a wall because it's strong, it has a consistent thickness of about 4 inches, and it's free of reinforcing rods and mesh that are present in newer driveways and patio slabs.

As a quick way of estimating how much concrete a wail requires, figure about 4 square feet of 4-inch-thick concrete for every cubic foot of wall (that allows an extra square foot for breakage and shaping pieces). A wall that's 2 feet tall, 10 feet long, and 1 foot deep would use about 80 square feet of concrete (or the equivalent of a 4- by 20-foot sidewalk).

If space permits, spread out the concrete pieces before you start construction. You'll avoid the difficulty of rummaging through piles of 15-pound (or heavier) chunks for the puzzle piece you need.

For good stability, use concrete pieces that are about 12 inches wide. And check your local codes for height limitations and other restrictions before you begin building.

Howard Folkman, of Howard Folkman The Garden Maker, built the wall pictured at left for a garden in Palos Verdes, California, designed by Chris Rosmini. Step-by-step, he shares his construction technique here.
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Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Ocone, Lynn
Date:Feb 1, 1993
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