Garden Retaining Wall -- Plastic Window Screen and Cement




About: I'm a refugee from Los Angeles, living in backwoods Puerto Rico for about 35 years now and loving it. I built my own home from discarded nylon fishnet and cement.

This is a low retaining wall added to the base of a rebar trellis on a hillside to create a terraced area for planting vines.  

The trellis is made just by sticking the ends of iron rebar in the ground, and then tie wiring more rebar to it.  To make the wall, plastic window screen material is attached to the rebar structure temporarily using clothespins.  Then grout, which is stickier than cement, is used to replace the clothespins.  Once held to the rebar structure, the screen is plastered with cement and sand, resulting in a thin cement wall about 3/4" thick.  It doesn’t have to resist a lot of force.  Being thin, less material is used, and the wall is relatively light weight. 

Step 1: Defining the Top and Bottom Edges of the Retaining Wall

Two horizontal lines of rebar are added to the trellis, representing the top and bottom edges of the retaining wall.  The top edge comes to a little above where ground level will be when the area is filled with fertile soil.  The bottom edge is a little bit off the ground.  There is no foundation under the wall, although the wall does make contact with the ground in a few places.  The weight of it is basically supported by the trellis itself.  

Step 2: Temporarily Hold the Screen With Clothespins

The plastic window screen material is cut with a little excess material to fold over the rebar.  It is temporarily held in position with clothespins. 

Step 3: Clothespins Removed, Grout Adheres the Folded Over Screen Material to the Rebar

Once you get the screen adhered to the rebar, work on individual square areas doesn't affect neighboring squares much, and the plastering goes pretty easily. 

Step 4: Plaster One Side With Cement and Sand.

If the wall leans toward one side or the other, it is usually the top side of the wall, that has gravity helping it, that gets plastered first.  Plastering the underside of a porous material, like screen, can be difficult because gravity pulls the plaster down, away from the screen, and there is not much surface area of plastic for the cement to stick to.  Cement doesn't stick well to air.  

On the top side of the screen, gravity helps the cement rest on the screen until it hardens.  Plus, the cement that works its way through the screen holes helps it grab onto the screen. 

Step 5: Plaster the Other Side

The nearest end of the wall has been plastered on both sides.  The far end still needs plastering on this side. 

Step 6: Fill the Planter With Topsoil and Compost

Most plants like a good rich soil with lots of nutrients.  Topsoil and compost make them happy. 

Step 7: Plant Your Vines

At last, time to plant!  I planted some passion fruit, chayote, spinach, and some low-growing things along the base of the trellis.  By next summer it should be producing food and shade. 



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    12 Discussions


    8 years ago on Step 7

    Ah, I am so ready to build a fence now.

    It is holding up fine. No idea what it cost, but it had to be minimal, at least as far as the cement goes, because it was so thin. I had to buy the fiberglass screen, whereas I used to get used nylon fishnet free before my source disappeared. This was an experiment in materials substitution -- successful in this project.


     I don't mean to be negative... The bamboo will destroy that wall. Bamboo will destroy a brick wall. Except for the bamboo problem. it looks great

    4 replies

    There is no bamboo in the wall, or anywhere near the wall.   The wall is made of rebar, plastic window screen, and cement (sand and cement). 

    So, no bamboo problem.  Glad you like the looks of it. 


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    There is no bamboo in any of the pictures.  Something is being mistaken for bamboo.  I see some papaya trunks that are probably the culprits. 


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Must be, the 2-3 thing trunks near the far end?
    hm, well it's your home, I'll take your word for it :D