A gabion is a decorative or structural wire cage filled with landscape rocks. They become stronger as they age, unlike many hardscape objects, because the rocks settle over time. Although landscapers originally used boxlike gabions for retaining walls and other erosion-preventing structures, standalone gabions in various styles have become popular in xeriscapes and both modern and traditional gardens.
- Skill level:
Things you need
- Heavy gloves
- Eye protection
- Zinc or PVC-coated wire mesh (.012-inch or 11-gauge wire, not chicken wire)
- Permanent marker
- Tape measure
- .087-inch-gauge wire or C-clips
- Heavy wire cutters or bolt cutters
- Needle-nose pliers
- 4-inch to 8-inch landscape rock
Lay out the wire on a large, flat surface such as a driveway, patio or lawn. Measure the size of the gabion panels and mark the edges on the wire using a permanent marker. Keep the edges as smooth as possible. Do not make a gabion more than 3 feet wide, 3 feet deep and 3 feet tall, unless it's supported from within.
Cut the gabion panels with wire cutters along the marked lines. Cut edges are extremely sharp; use caution and wear protective eyewear. Bend any stray wires protruding from the edge inward.
Set the gabion's side panels flat around the base panel and secure the box's bottom edges with the .087-inch wire or C-clips. Thread the wire or clips through the edges, crossing at the twisted joints of the wire mesh. Avoid crossing the connecting wire or C-clips on the mesh's weaker single-wire strands. Lift the side panels to an upright position and wire the corner edges in place. Finish the binding wire with a half-hitch. You now have an open-topped box.
Make wire supports, or stiffeners, with the .087-gauge wire. Cut the wire into four 9-inch lengths and use the needle-nose pliers to create hooks at each end. Hook the end of the stiffener inside the box at a location on the mesh where the wires cross, halfway up from the gabion's floor and 4 inches out from the vertical edge. Secure the remaining support hook to the connecting panel and close the hooks with pliers. This reinforces the gabion's corners and prevents the wire from bowing outward. You may choose to run similar supports from the centre of the front panel to the centre of the back panel if bowing is a concern.
Set the open-topped gabion in its final location, making sure the surface is level and capable of supporting the gabion's weight. Add rocks, slightly overfilling the top to compensate for settling. Place the final wire panel over the top and wire it in place.
Tips and warnings
- Hand-place the rocks on the visible sides of the gabion if you are concerned about appearance.
- Chicken wire is structurally weak and does not hold up against the rocks' weight. Do not use it to build your landscape rock box.
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