Retaining Walls

We need to build a retaining wall, a great big one. We need to build it inexpensively. Here are some possiblities I’ve found online, and we’d love to hear any other suggestions.

Great walls of tires

Tires can even be used to create retaining walls to stabilize an earth bank. When using them for this purpose, begin by laying a level course of tires. Fill these tires completely with sand, soil, or gravel. Try to eliminate any holes or pockets in the tires that might provide a haven to vermin like mice or rats. Atop the first course of filled tires, add another row, positioning them one-quarter to one-third of the way back on the first course. This will give the wall some slope and add stability. Also, place the tires with staggered joints, that is, in bricklayer-fashion. That will add a lot of stability as well. Once several courses of these rubber building blocks are in place, the wall should be very solid and immovable.

If you choose to, remove the upper sidewall of each tire before you put it in place, and fill it with soil. Not only will it make filling the tires easier, but it will also make space available to place some ground cover plants that can grow and cover the wall. You may consider even setting strawberry plants in the spaces.
If you can place a few tires in a row along a wall or garden edge, try adding a heavy wire cattle panel or simply a length of woven fence wire as a trellis for vining plants to climb. You can save a lot of space by growing beans, cucumbers, squash, gourds, and other climbers this way.

~ that and other cool uses for tires here

Tires and tin cans for a retaining wall here

I wondered about strawbales as for strawbale houses, but this site says not

Might be a good idea for a goat shed, though. ( See also ) However, bales of straw CAN be used effectively for a temporary wall, so we might want to put some out before it rains again.

Earthbags might work

More details gleaned from several separate paragraphs and combined to make sense for us here:

Earthbags work very well for landscape retaining walls, and can be filled with virtually any kind of native soil. The bags do have to be plastered with something to keep the sunlight from destroying them.
You can certainly make a retaining wall with bags of cement stacked up, but I might suggest a simpler, cheaper, and more sustainable approach to making such a wall: just use earthbags (polypylene bags) filled with your local soil, stacked up like you would with bags of cement (layed in a staggered, brick-like pattern). If the wall is curved against the soil being retained it will be much stronger. Two strands of barbed wire placed between each course also makes it stronger, but this may not be necessary. The earthbags will need to be plastered with stabilized earthen plaster or stucco to keep the sunlight off of them and make it look nice, but so would the sacks of cement approach, and this would use way less Portland cement, which takes an enivironmental toll.

I like the tire idea best, but I could live with the earthbags, and we have plenty of sand to fill them with. Any other thoughts? Suggestions? Tips? Volunteers for filling sandbags? We’ll put you up and feed you, even let you read a book or two.:D

We went with this:

flowers in tire retaining wall

This entry was posted in blooms, frugalities, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Trackbacks are closed, but you can post a comment.


  1. My Boaz's Ruth
    Posted July 25, 2006 at 11:35 pm | Permalink

    Yikes. What brought this post on?

  2. Anonymous
    Posted July 25, 2006 at 11:59 pm | Permalink

    I have been told repeatedly by many (primarily by Univ. prof. in the dept. of horticulture I graduated from) NOT to grow edibles in beds constructed from railroad ties or treated lumber due to the contaminants released into the soil from their degradation due to natural weathering processes or composting. I do not know if tires release anything toxic. Just a thought … since you mentioned planting strawberries atop them. – Melissa

  3. B. Durbin
    Posted July 26, 2006 at 2:06 am | Permalink

    My parents have had great luck with concrete samples. Those are cylindrical concrete blocks aout eighteen inches long and eight inches in diameter.

    Apparently they take chunks out of random slabs destined for roads and building projects, and test some of them to destruction to ensure high quality concrete. Then they have a whole bunch left over. They make for nice terracing walls and flower beds.

    I’d call Public Works or a university to find out if anyone knows a local source. Sometimes they’ll even give them to you for free.

  4. Matt
    Posted July 26, 2006 at 3:05 am | Permalink

    If you have time, dirt, and sun you could make adobe block. Great activity for kids. My daughters school made adobe blocks as a project one year, it was a charter school. It was part of art, science, and PE. The blocks were used to make a wall around a drainage area in the middle of the school. It looked great, and the kids learned huge amounts and they had a lot of fun. Parents were encouraged to assist and did. Although making adobe creates a big hole somewhere, it could be used as the start of a decorative pond, or even swimmin’ hole.


  5. Anonymous
    Posted July 26, 2006 at 6:13 am | Permalink

    I would wonder about using tires if you were going to put plants in them. I had a soil test done on my garden and the zinc levels came back at 156ppm–extremely toxic–thankfully it was contamination by a little AA battery, but the first thing the ag agent asked was if there had been any tires burned there or shredded tire mulch. On line I learned that shredded tires leak zinc so that anything planted there dies within a week. So would a tire that had the sidewall removed do the same? You might want to check.
    –Stephanie in AR

  6. Anonymous
    Posted August 7, 2006 at 7:05 am | Permalink

    Another inexpensive alternative to retaining wall materials is to use bags of dry concrete, stacked in a brick pattern to build up your wall. Once built, the concrete bags are moistened for a while to the concrete will harden. The bags will conform to fit each other and will withstand the elements quite nicely.

    These walls are incredibly strong and very inexpensive. Once the paper is torn away (after the concret inside has “set”) they look like big round boulders. I found this website for more info on the process.

  7. Anonymous
    Posted September 9, 2006 at 5:34 pm | Permalink

    I am very interested in this kind of retaining wall please let me know were to find more precise info, about the bags of concrete.
    thank you.

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