Building Garden Projects with Aluminum Cans!

First of all, decide where you want to build a retaining wall. I am using cans and mortar (not cement, cement has too many rocks in it) to build raised flower bed walls, but this theory can be used for a lot of different things. I got this idea from a builder here in town. They were building benches and the sign for the business out of them. My first project was to put cans side-by-side to build a wall around one of my fish ponds. For flower bed retaining walls I put the cans end-to-end. Once you put mortar around the cans it is as strong as can be. I walk on my edges and I'm not light!

Okay, down to business! First I mix up my mortar, there should be directions on the bag. I started out mixing small amounts in a bucket, and ended up mixing in a wheelbarrow. I use a hoe to draw a line in the dirt for a basic line to follow. I have just freehanded my shape as I go.

After the mortar is mixed, using your trowel lay down a layer of mortar as thin as the width of the can and about three to four cans long. I've made thumbnail images, so you just click on them to get to the full sized picture. This way the page loads up quicker.

You then push your cans into the mortar.

Then using the trowel pull mortar up the sides of the cans with one hand and with the other hand hold the cans in place as you go.

Turning a corner is easy, just lay down mortar in a curve and add your cans and do the same for a straight line.

A look from a distance.

Looking at the far end with the first layer of cans.

Starting back with a second layer of cans. I put a layer of mortar on top of the first layer of cans just like the ground and then pull mortar up the sides of basically both layers of cans to hold the second layer in place.

The second layer as I went around the corner.

This flower bed I added a layer of flagstone to the top. I had a bunch of pieces that were long and thin that I picked through the pile in Ashfork, AZ, where we get all our flagstone.

This is a good view of the corner with two layers of cans before I put the flagstone topper on.

To put the flagstone on top, I do basically the same thing as the cans. I put a layer of mortar on the top layer of cans, then place the piece of flagstone on top and pull the mortar up the sides to hold it in place, I also make sure I have a bit of mortar in-between the flagstone pieces.

Finished! After I finished the flower bed I used Round Up week killer to kill the grass that was inside the wall where the flower bed would be and along the outside edge. After a day I sprayed it again, put newspaper down and then filled in with dirt and mulch.

These next two pictures are without the flagstone topper. I just put mortar on top of the cans and patted it over the top and down the sides to finish this flower bed. The first view is close up and the second is away to show a better view of the bed.

These links are to my web pages.

© Webmaster: Robin Cramer 1997