Looking for something to do for Father's Day? How about building a short retaining wall out in the garden? Sounds like a lot of work? Yep, it is. But it is worth all of the blood, sweat, and tears. Let's just hope we can keep the blood and tears to a minimum.
There are lots of different ways a retaining wall can solve problems. If your yard has a slope that is under three feet, a wall can help break things up. Measure the space you want to fill. If you aren't sure how the wall will look, lay a garden hose on the grass in its place so you can get a feel for how you want the wall to go. A can of spray paint or a bag of flour also can be used to make a line in the grass to keep you on track. Stakes and a long string create a straight line for a simple wall.
You can make the wall as long as you want, but the key is not to go any higher than three feet. If you want a taller one, check with a professional to make sure your wall is engineered to handle water drainage, heavy winter snow, and shifting soil.
You can make a retaining wall out of lots of materials, including wooden landscape ties, stone, concrete blocks, and bricks. No matter what type of material you use, begin with a plan on paper.
Don't build a wall around the base of a tree or in an area with poor drainage. You may end up with more problems in the future.
Concrete pavers are a quick way to build a short wall or a raised area around the yard. They are made to create gentle curves or straight lines and have indentations and bumps so they will fit together like a puzzle. But you have to work "with" the material, not against it. I've walked through some gardens where the do-it-yourselfer installed the bricks backwards. Instead of gently sloping back into the bed, the stones pushed forward. That kind of mistake can result in a failing wall and even injuries if the pavers fall over.
Measure the length of the wall you are going to build. Take those measurements to your favorite home and garden center and they will help you get enough material to build the wall. Get a few extra pieces just in case some are broken or don't fit properly.
Before you stick your shovel in the ground, call your local utility company to mark the underground lines. You wouldn't want to dig up the phone line, would you? (Not that I have done that before!)
Get the shovel out and dig a six-inch trench a little wider than the stone. Try to keep the bottom of it as level as you can. Add a two to three-inch layer of sand or crusher dust from a home and garden center and tamp it down so it is firm. Now you are ready to start building.
A level base is key, so have a rubber mallet or hammer handy to keep the bottom layer as level as possible. Spend extra time making sure things are perfect at this stage; it will make your job a whole lot easier as the wall gets taller.
Start laying the first row of pavers into the trench. When you get to the end, you might have to cut a paver in half with a chisel and hammer. You want the next row to stagger on top of the row below it, so you will have to add half a paver at the bottom. Save the leftover piece because you will use it in another row.
Once you get a couple rows going, back-fill the area with some new soil and tamp it in place. This helps keep the foundation solid. Then put on another row, being careful not to go over three feet high.
When you reach the top, you are ready to put rich top soil in the bed. If you want to keep the weeds out, put the landscape cloth down first before you start planting. It's a perfect place for dad's new hammock!
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