From fortresses and defense fortifications to monuments and gently rolling stone walls, people have utilized stone throughout the centuries. Edging a garden with stone provides you with a simple yet elegant way to outline and define your garden spaces. Available at rock supply centers--or free for those with a strong back and access to rock-littered fields and pastures--natural fieldstones lend a muted, natural appearance to your gardens, putting the focus on your vegetables and flowers. Look for long, flat fieldstones that will stack well, especially if you want multiple layers of edging, as recommended by Charles McRaven, author of “Building Stone Walls.”
Pound wooden stakes into the ground to mark the corners of your garden, using a hammer. Stretch a length of twine tightly between the wooden stakes to provide a marking line for the face (front) of the stone edging that borders the garden.
Dig a 4- to 6-inch-deep footer trench along the outside edge of the marking string, using a shovel. Make the trench 3 to 6 inches wider than your final fieldstone edging; for example, if you wish your stone edging to be 12 inches wide around the entire perimeter of your garden, dig a trench that measures 15 to 18 inches wide.
Fill the bottom 2/3 of the footer trench with gravel or sand. Scoop the footer material into the trench and level it with a shovel to ensure that it’s flat.
Lay the bottom layer of fieldstone into the footer trench. Start laying the stone at one corner of the garden and work progressively around the entire perimeter of the garden space. Fit the stones together closely--like jigsaw puzzle pieces--if you wish the edging to appear as a solid layer of stone. Leave 1 to 2 inches between the edges of the stones if you desire a more loosely spaced appearance.
Fill in any spaces between the individual fieldstones with loose dirt, packing it tightly into the open spaces with a hand trowel. Add additional layers of stone to the edging one layer at a time, starting at one of the corners with each layer and working your way around the garden space. Stagger the placement of the fieldstones in each layer to ensure that the edging remains sturdy and is less likely to tumble.