how to

  • How to build a retaining wall

    How to build a WoodBlocX retaining wall

    Here in the UK our gardens comes in all shapes and sizes, if you’re lucky enough to have a flat garden you may not need a retaining wall, garden edging or curbing may be better suited to you, but if your garden slopes up or down retaining walls can help to transform the space by allowing you to level the ground out, or create a series of terraces.

    There are various materials that can be used to build retaining walls including bricks, railway sleepers, natural stone, gabions, breeze blocks and of course WoodBlocX - check out our <what to use for a retaining wall comparison blog> to see the cost for each and also information on materials and any labour required to help you make your decision on which is the best material for you.

    One of the main benefits of WoodBlocX retaining walls is that they can built by you, whether you’re a skilled DIY’er or if you think you have zero DIY skills, the modular nature of the system makes it really straightforward to build, plus you will be armed with step by step instructions and videos to help you with every block.

    WoodBlocX walls are built from numerous individual pieces of timber (rather like bricks), that are pinned together using strong plastic dowels. Each piece of timber – selected to use only the strongest parts of the tree and never the heart – is then pressure treated twice, and because the dowel holes are pre-drilled, the treatment penetrates almost 100% of the wood. The dowels can each withstand 0.9 tonnes of sheer force, making the walls strong under both tension and compression and strong enough to withstand frost and ground movement without distorting or cracking under pressure.

    How to build a WoodBlocX retaining wall

    Tools needed
    Spade or rake for levelling
    Spirit level* or laser level
    Lump hammer*
    String line*
    Gardening gloves*
    Hacksaw or dowel cutters* for the last layer of dowels
    Garden scissors or a stanley knife for the liner

    All starred items are available in our Building Kit

    Materials needed
    Permeable liner
    Building sand
    Subbase or compacted type 1

    To find out more about our recommendations for liners and drainage click here

    Preparation

    Mark out the space using a string line, this will help to ensure you have a perfectly straight edge to work to. There is no need to include concrete foundations for a WoodBlocX retaining wall, simply level the area where you plan to build the wall. We do recommend using a layer of subbase - which is available from most high-street DIY stores or builders merchants - this helps to distribute weight and improve the ground’s ability to carry weight. We also recommend using a layer of compacted building sand or sharp sand which will help to ensure the BlocX are level before they are laid.

    To read more about footings and getting started building your WoodBlocX retaining wall click here

    Building

    Base layer
    Once you are happy that the ground is sufficiently levelled and prepped lay out your first layer of BlocX according to your step by step instructions and match up the dowels to the BlocX, fixing the dowels into the BlocX on the base layer before placing them on the ground will help to ensure you don’t knock your base out of level.

    How to install a raised bed in winter

    Securing the structure to the ground
    When ordering a retaining wall kit you will have been asked at the point of purchase if you plan to build on grass or soil, if the answer is YES then you will be provided with a series of ground spikes, these are 40mm in length and need to be placed through the dowel holes on the first layer of BlocX and in every buttress to secure the structure to the ground. If you are planning to build WoodBlocX on a hard surface such as tarmac or concrete we would advise you replace our ground spikes with heavy-duty angle brackets. These can be purchased from most DIY stores.

    Build up the layers
    Follow your step by step instructions to build the layers up adding the dowels as you go. We include buttresses in all of our designs to provide added strength to the structure, these are particularly important when building retaining walls as they act as cantilevers with the weight of soil pushing down on them to keep the main structure supported. The buttress will always finish one layer below the main height of the structure and are spaced every 1500mm along the wall.

    Angle plates
    Our angle plates, which are made from hard wearing galvanized steel need to be placed at every point where the buttress meets the main structure to tie the structure together. They also need to be placed on the corners of the last layers of BlocX before the capping is added to the structure.

    Capping and liner
    When you've reached the final layer of BlocX and added the dowels and angle plates use the dowel cutters (provided in our Building Kit) or saw to cut the dowels down by three notches and place your liner (or lengths of liner) to cover the inside of your structure, cutting small incisions to let the dowels through, this will hold it in place, cut off any over hanging liner and secure the capping using a spare block between the capping and your lump hammer to fit it - this will prevent any impact marks being made in the capping.

    For information on lining your WoodBlocX retaining wall and drainage click here

    Maintenance

    WoodBlocX retaining walls require zero maintenance, once installed the BlocX can be left to weather naturally, creating a great rustic look, or painted to suit the style of your garden.

    To get an instant price for a retaining wall use our calculator tool, browse our pre-designed walls or get in touch and use our quick free design service, just send us your measurements and any preferences you have and we will create a design and quote for you.

    More helpful retaining wall blogs

  • How to build a raised bed - the complete guide

    Our raised beds are really easy to build because everything you need is included in your kit, here we explain how to build a raised bed in one complete guide.

    The wooden components used to build our DIY raised beds are all pre-cut so there’s no need to saw the wood and there’s no waste, making building quick and straightforward, after all, building raised beds should be fun!

     All of our kits are built in the same way so if you’ve ordered a raised bed, seat, pond or retaining wall kit this same building method applies to all.

    Helpful tools to have to hand before you start your build:
    - Sprit level for checking the surface you’re planning to build on
    - Lump hammer for knocking the BlocX in place
    - Small hand saw to trim the dowels on the final layer of BlocX in order to fit the capping

    Read our six steps to building your WoodBlocX structure below...

    Your delivery will look similar to this. Everything you need here, wooden blocks, capping, dowels and angle plates. All wooden parts are cut exactly to the sizes requested so there’s no waste at the end of the build.

    Once you have decided where your raised bed will sit in the garden carefully set out the bottom layer and make any adjustments to where you’re going to build it if needed. Refer to the instructions to check where the supportive buttresses and angle plates need to be positioned.

    Our clever dowel system holds the structure together, simply knock these into the recess holes, make sure you refer to your instructions to ensure you’re putting them in the correct places.

    When you’ve completed the first and second layers you will be on a roll. Work your way up the layers matching the first to the third, the second to the fourth and repeat.

    Angle plates need to be placed on the supportive buttressed for extra strength and on the corners of the final layer before you add the capping.

    Once you’ve reached the final layer before the capping is added, cut dowels down by three notches using a saw (or dowel cutters if you have ordered a Building Kit) and fit the capping using a protective piece of wood to ensure you don't damage your caps.

    Do raised beds need a liner?

    We always recommend using a liner with our raised beds, this provides extra protection for the wood to ensure you get the maximum lifespan out of your raised beds.

    Use a geotextile or damp-proof membrane (DPM) to cover the inside walls of your raised bed. There is no need to add lining to the base of the structure if you are building it on soil or grass. For raised beds built on patio paving, concrete or tarmac we do recommend lining the bottom and slightly up the walls of the raised bed.

    How much soil do I need for my raised bed?

    If you don’t already have some soil to fill your raised bed and need to order some top soil in, you can work out how much you need using this simple sum: length(m) x width(m) x height(cm), but if you are adding a drainage layer to the bottom subtract the height of the layer from the equation so you don’t over order. Contact your local soil suppliers to compare quotes.

    Need a little more help? No problem

    Watch our quick instructional videos which talk you through how to build a raised bed. You can find them all HERE or click on the most popular videos below.

    Design for your garden

    Watch more helpful videos on how to build a raised bed here.

    Build your own raised bed now!

    If our 'how to build a raised bed' guide has inspired you to build your own, check out these links below.

    Find hundreds of shapes and sizes here

    Use our handy calculator tools and input your own measurements.

    Need a bespoke design? Use of free design service to get exactly what you need for your garden.

    A few of our happy customers' raised beds

    circular raised garden bed
    Creating an accessible garden
    WoodBlovX best selling rectangular raised timber beds
    Raised garden bed on patio
    garden design ideas
  • Planning a raised bed garden

    We asked our designers Lachlan, Calum and Harry to provide some helpful tips to consider when planning a raised bed garden.

    There are so many benefits to adding raised beds to your garden and our modular system makes it really simple to install them, cutting out labour costs and providing you with a planting solution that is practical, durable and attractive.

    Our timber raised beds are made up of series of wooden blocks that are pressure treated which makes them super strong, the blocks are held together by strong dowels and this combination ensures your structure will not crack or warp.

    The versatility of our system means the design possibilities are almost limitless, our team of skilled designers work closely with customers on a daily basis to ensure they get the best solution for their gardens, whether it’s a singular raised bed, multiple raised beds or a completely bespoke garden design.

    Planning a raised bed garden - What is the best position for a raised bed?

    Lachlan says: Look for an area of your garden that gets the most sun. Ideally, the location for your raised-bed garden receives at least eight hours of sun (you can provide shade if it needs it, but you can’t add sun). Other considerations are level ground, good drainage, and access to water.

    If you want to maximise growing space for edibles, plants or flowers, think about the paths that are existing or that you're planning to use. Could you create a different path layout and add additional raised beds?

    For 10 reasons why raised beds are great for the garden click here.

    What is the best size for a raised bed?

    Calum says: The length of a raised bed doesn’t matter just keep in mind you will need to walk around it to get to the other side.

    Ideally, the depth of the bed is from 350-650mm deep. Almost all crops can be grown in this depth of raised bed. We wouldn't advise making any single height bed more than 2.5m across otherwise you'll have issues tending to the centre of it. Consider creating a higher section within which will allow you to lean over and gain better access.

    Use our raised bed calculator tool and add your preferred to sizes and you can see what benefits the height offers.

    WoodBlocX best selling rectangular raised timber bed shapes
    WoodBlocX stepped raised bed

    How to maximise space in the garden using raised beds

    Harry says: If you're limited for space, consider how you might blend the use of a single area. For instance, if you'd like to include seating consider integrating it into the wall of the raised bed instead. If you've got a sloping area and need to retain or landscape it, use one of our raised beds as a retaining wall.

    You can browse our popular pre-designed raised bed kits by heading here or use our free design service. 

    Design for your garden

    If you need advice, guidance or have any questions about using raised beds in your garden contact us directly via phone: 0800 389 1420, email [email protected] or click on the live chat box over on the left of the page. We offer all customers a free design service to ensure everyone gets exactly what they need for their garden.

  • Hard Landscaping is nothing to be afraid of!

    Landscaping: a word that has many negative connotations including cowboy gardeners and boring municipal plantings, but which really only means to create a planted area. There are two types – soft landscaping is the planting part, and hard landscaping is the creation of patios, paths and beds, and which usually comes first in the process.

    Most domestic gardeners would assume that hard landscaping comes at a heavy cost if you hire someone else to do it, or that it would require a substantial skillset and power tool collection to do it yourself, but that’s just not true!

    WoodBlocX is a product that can transform your garden in a variety of ways, and requires absolutely no technical knowledge or power tools to put together. It’s also cheaper than many of the other options. Here are a few ways you could improve your garden using hard landscaping:

    • Edging. A wooden – curved or straight – edge to lawns and beds really neatens the whole look of the garden, and makes maintaining the edge much easier. A good edge on a driveway or path also adds kerb appeal, and keeps gravel where it’s supposed to be.
    • TerracingDespite not needing any power tools to build, and being light and easy to handle, the WoodBlocX system can also be used to build strong and durable retaining walls and terracing, bringing flat garden lawns and beds to previously unmanageable slopes.
    • PlantersRather than a large pot, why not use a wooden planter? They will not crack like terracotta, and can easily accommodate small trees or large shrubs, which would make a striking centrepiece to a lawn or patio. Alternatively, use them for fragrant plants such as daphnes, lavenders and nemesias in a front garden or by a doorway, where their scent will be most appreciated.
    • Seats. Durable, attractive and comfortable, WoodBlocX seats are a brilliant alternative to benches, which can quickly become rickety and unsafe. Kits range from a simple bench style to seats that incorporate planters at either end.
    • Ponds. Having a water feature in a garden is perhaps the most advanced kind of hard landscaping, but not one that needs to be difficult, especially when WoodBlocX will even tell you what size liner you will need! The raised ponds are also a great option if you only have a courtyard, and can’t dig a pond into the ground.

    Raised beds bring your flowers and veggies to within easy reach, and into view from windows, and can bring greenery and life to patios and courtyards.

  • Winter WoodBlocX getting you ready for spring

    In the south, there have been very few really hard frosts, so even some tender bedding plants like geraniums have survived and it means that many of the bugs and other nasties are also thriving! So now is the time to go slug and snail hunting and dispose of them! Really we do need a good old cold snap to freshen things up.

    The constant damp and heavy recent rainfall is not good for the garden, resulting in waterlogged muddy beds that are difficult to work. So stick to ordering seeds, maintaining your garden, re-edging borders, pruning fruit trees, clearing out the potting shed and repairing your equipment ready for upcoming spring activity!

    Maybe this year you should think about a “No-Dig” system for your veggie patch or  raised beds? It is a low maintenance system, ideal for organic enthusiasts and if combined with a WoodBlocXraised bed, will make growing your own veg easier and less of a chore!

    Basically you remove any surface weeds and dig out perennials (in Autumn) then simply spread a generous quantity of well rotted manure or home made compost, on top of the raised bed (at least 4 inches deep) and leave it to nature. The mulch over the surface helps to keep the soil warm and, therefore, the worms active, drawing the compost into the ground. Later on, when you are watering your raised bed crops, you will find that on an un-dug bed it is easier because it soaks away through this organic matter whilst a bed that has been dug often has a surface that will smear and cause run-off.

    Apart from maybe sowing some shallots, radish, carrots and parsnips under cloches, you are better to wait til the end of February before sowing any seeds, as despite the unseasonably warm weather, low light levels will suppress growth. Carrot Marion is a good Nantes variety which is suitable for all year growing. Towards the end of Feb you can sow early salad crops in the green house and peas and broad beans without heat, but under cover. One of the oldest and most nutritious of all cultivated vegetables, hundreds of years ago broad beans provided protein in a meat poor diet! Try Sciabola Verde or Red Epicure (both from Marshalls-seeds.co.uk)

    Grow Your Own Anywhere!
    Whilst you are planning what new vegetable seeds to order from the catalogues, why not try growing some Dwarf French beans in a WoodBlocX planter? Maxi is a good variety to try and also new White Aubergine- Ivory (what else!) is another crop that can be successfully grown in a planter.

    Have a look at the various WoodBlocX planter options and see how you can create your own small kitchen garden anywhere.

  • How easy are modular systems to put together?

    Do you need to spruce up your garden fast? Perhaps you need to make some improvements before a big event? Or do you just want to add some finishing touches to a garden without the hassle of too much work? Plants are by far the easiest and best way to bring a bit of life to a bare outdoor area, and what better way to display them than in a neat, attractive timber bed?

    The simplest and fastest way to incorporate a lot of planting to a paved or decked area is to use large planters or raised beds, and the WoodBlocX system is an ideal choice. The beds can be put on any surface very easily, so there’s no need for extensive preparation, and there is a wide choice of off-the-shelf products that can be delivered to your home in as little as four days.

    The modular beds can be configured to fit almost any space; they can be squarerectangular, hexagonal and circular or pretty much any shape you want. You can also choose from a variety of heights to suit the designated area. There are also raised bed designs that include seating, or you can build and add separate benches. Because all WoodBlocX products use the same materials they can really tie a look together.

    All the materials needed for a WoodBlocX construction are supplied together, on pallets, so you save time on running around different shops trying to find just what you need. WoodBlocX calculate exactly what you need for each bed, making it easy for you. Once they arrive, they couldn’t be simpler to put together. All the specific instructions for each construction are supplied with the materials and there are also online videos. It’s just like building a Lego kit – and once you’re underway the BlocX are really very quick to go together.

    Once the bed is constructed, that’s it – job done, it doesn’t need any treating with varnish or preservatives. It could be painted if you want to add some colour, or leave the natural wood to fade to a soft grey over the years. Fill the beds with topsoil and add plants to transform the area. Just add garden party guests!

  • An easy and effective garden solution

    All too often a great design idea has to be amended beyond recognition because of the practicalities and realities of the garden and the budget. Perhaps all the materials for the garden have to be taken through the house, perhaps there are pets or young children around, or perhaps you’re on a deadline – all these logistical problems and more can mean that the original vision is compromised. However, whether you want to add planters or raised beds, benches or more to a problematic area, the solution can be found in a modular timber system such as WoodBlocX.

    Modular systems, because they are delivered in pieces rather than unwieldy pre-built wholes, can be taken into the garden much more easily. All the WoodBlocX components can be easily carried by one person, so even in the tightest of places there’s space to squeeze them through. They are delivered on pallets, which can be easily moved to get as close to the construction area as possible, saving time and effort in moving things around. This is also helpful when the garden build has to take place around household life – the components do not take up much space, so disruption can be minimised.

    Modular systems built from small components are also light and can be easily carried up steps. This means that it is also possible to build quite large planters on rooftops, and incorporate a rooftop garden to bring some life to a dull area.

    So, WoodBlocX are easy to get onto the site, but they are also easy to work with once the components are there. All the individual pieces are pre-fabricated to exactly the right size, and pre-drilled and mitred as well. Therefore you will not need any power tools to build up the BlocX themselves – no drilling, cutting or sawing is necessary. The BlocX are quick and easy to put together, and there is very little noise created in the process, keeping the disruption to family and neighbours to a minimum. Furthermore, the pre-cut modular system also means there is no dust or mess and virtually no waste to dispose of (and what waste there is can be easily moved and transported to the tip), saving time and money again.

    Modular timber systems like WoodBlocX are the smart choice for any garden, but especially those with access problems. Call our team for a chat about your project and how we can help.

  • What’s the most durable material for your garden?

    When you are building a garden project it’s reassuring to know that it will last for a good number of years, and that’s where using materials from a specific supplier is useful. Whereas it might be difficult to estimate the lifespan of a raised bed or other construction made from timber planking or recycled sleepers, WoodBlocX guarantee their products for 15 years.

    In fact, any raised beds, ponds, edging, terracing or retaining walls, steps and seats built from WoodBlocX will probably last much longer than this, but the company has only been trading since 2001, so they’ve only been tested for that length of time! The modular system not only means that the timber can be put together in many different ways, but it also means that each individual component is as strong and hard-wearing as it can be.

    WoodBlocX are so durable because of the way the timber is treated. First, they use only the strongest wood – never the heartwood – from the tree. This is either Scottish or Latvian slow-grown pine. Each block is pre-drilled and pressure treated twice using a water-based preservative that fixes in the cells of the timber as it dries (and certified as completely organic by the Soil Association). The BlocX are then dried in a vacuum and pressurised. The result is that the preservative penetrates almost 100% of the wood. Unlike other flimsier timber products on the market, this means that should some of the wood’s surface be worn away by foot traffic or weather, there is no possibility of the timber rotting.

    There are many reasons that built areas of a garden might start to fail over time.

    • Ground movement and frost can push out and distort walls. However, WoodBlocX are built from many individual pieces that together make such a strong and flexible wall that it will not crack or distort under pressure.
    • The weather can erode the face of timber, and mortar joints between stone and bric There is no mortar needed for WoodBlocX and the timber is treated almost all the way through.
    • Pins and nails can rus WoodBlocX are joined together with recycled plastic dowels and fixed to the ground where appropriate using stainless steel plates and ground spikes, so there is no chance of rusting components

    Not only will the BlocX stand up to the weather, they will also stand up to the wear and tear of the everyday. Be they raised beds or benches that get regularly sat upon, steps or retaining walls and terracing, the wood will withstand the erosion very well. The BlocX also fit together seamlessly and the dowels expand within the joints, so there is little chance of annoying cracks appearing.

    The wood does not need varnishing and can either be left to weather naturally (it will fade to a soft grey), or painted. If your garden project will be used by children, or is a seat where a smooth surface would be preferable, you can easily give the BlocX a sand.

    Whatever your garden needs, if you build it from WoodBlocX you can be sure that it will last.

    Not only will the BlocX stand up to the weather, they will stand up to the wear and tear of the everyday. Be they raised beds or benches that get regularly sat on, steps, or retaining walls and terracing, the wood will withstand the erosion very well. The BlocX also fit together seamlessly, and the dowels expand within the joints, so there is little chance of annoying cracks appearing.

    The wood does not need varnishing and can either be left to weather naturally (it will fade to a soft grey), or painted. If your garden project will be used by children, or is a seat where a smooth surface would be preferable, you can give the BlocXs a sand.

    Whatever your garden needs, if you build it from WoodBlocX you can be sure that it will last.

  • Durability of Retaining Walls and Terracing

    When it comes to retaining walls and terracing, safety and durability are the main concerns. Construction in stone may be the obvious first choice, but it is expensive, especially once the cost of the builders has been factored in. The cheapest option is timber boards, but these will warp and distort over time. They’re also often impregnated with nasty preservatives and are not very aesthetically pleasing. However, modular timber constructions, such as the unique WoodBlocX system, have none of these problems.

    The beauty of modular systems is that they can be adapted to suit any size of project and budget, and because they are cheaper than stone or brick and better quality than other timber products, they are an ideal choice. They are also really easy to put together, so it’s possible to do all of the work yourself if you want – which can save thousands of pounds compared with the cost of getting builders or landscapers in to build a stone wall.

    With WoodBlocX, all you need for the wall is supplied to you, so there are no hidden costs, and no need to calculate timber or stone requirements or factor in offcuts because all of that is done for you. Plus there’s no need for foundations or mortar. The BlocX can be left to weather naturally, which is great for a rustic look, or they can be painted if you prefer.

    There are pre-designedoff-the-shelf, terracing and retaining wall options on the website, but if none of them fit the needs of your particular garden, use the online calculator to work out a rough cost for your project. Alternatively, send WoodBlocX the measurements and your requirements and they will design it all for you and work out exactly what you need, all free of charge and with no obligation to buy.

    If you’re still unsure about whether WoodBlocX are for you, here are some facts and statistics:

    • WoodBlocX walls are built with many individual pieces of timber (rather like long bricks), that are pinned together using plastic dowels.
    • Each piece of timber – selected from only the strongest parts of the tree and never the heart - is pressure treated twice and because they are pre-drilled, the treatment penetrates almost 100% of the wood.
    • A WoodBlocX wall can be expected to last for at least 15 years, probably more.
    • The dowels can each withstand 0.9 tonnes of sheer force, and the walls are strong under both tension and compression, so in some cases, they are actually stronger than the stone alternative.
    • The many joints of the BlocX assembly system means that the walls are flexible enough to withstand frosts and ground movement, and won’t distort or crack under pressure.
    • A single wall (each BlocX is 7.5cm wide) will hold earth to a height of 1m, and the narrow BlocX means that there is a lot more planting or path space above and below than there would be with something like bulky railway sleepers.
  • How to Build a Flexible Design

    Are you struggling with a design for a difficult area of your garden or do you just need something a little out of the ordinary? Have you considered using a modular timber system such as WoodBlocX? Other options in these situations – such as old railway sleepers – could struggle with the dimensions that your ideas require. Modular systems are almost infinitely adaptable and can create designs that you might find surprising.

    The beauty of modular systems is that they can be tailored to almost any situation. Perhaps there is a narrow passageway or awkward corner that needs some plants to brighten it up? The WoodBlocX product is narrow in itself, unlike bulky sleepers, so raised beds built with the system provide much more planting space. Each component is also easy to get into the garden because they are light, clean, small and easy to move in awkward spaces – great if you have to take all the materials through your house.

    Modular timber systems can also be used to create a wide range of shapes – not just squares and rectangles. Circles, hexagons, pentagons and octagons are all available in the pre-designed kits, or you can specify exactly what you need. They are cheaper too, especially when it comes to curved designs that would otherwise have to use stone or brick, and are all guaranteed for at least 15 years. Corner beds and L-shapes are easily achievable too. This is not just for raised beds either – pondssteps, walls (perhaps with inbuilt seating) and garden edging are all much simpler to install with a modular system.

    Perhaps your garden needs a multi-level design? Terracing and stepped beds made from sleepers, brick or stone can make the expense (and the weight) really add up; but modular timber systems provide a durable alternative at a much lower cost. They are easy to put together too – there’s no need to hire builders to do it for you, which will also save you a lot of money.

    If you are working with an awkward area, off-the-shelf products and fixed dimensions may not work for you. WoodBlocX offer a design service for all of their products, so that you can create a bespoke project for your unique requirements. Better still, this service is entirely free and you have no obligation to buy. Alternatively, try the online calculators on the WoodBlocX website – just put in the measurements to get an idea of what you will need and the cost.

    Perhaps you want to create an inspiring play area for your children, or a tree house – well, WoodBlocX have been used to build pirate ships and a model elephant over 6ft tall. Really the only limit is your imagination – WoodBlocX would love to work with you to create something amazing!

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