Last week we finished leveling the shed patio. And this weekend, we turned this huge pile of blocks:
into this handsome retaining wall!
We have built a retaining wall before, for our front yard flower bed. With hardpan just a few inches below the ground, we did not put down a gravel base. After four years the front yard retaining wall still stood up perfectly straight. So we decided to not bother with the base here either. Slav dug a small trench along the patio border, and we directly sank the first row of blocks into the earth. We made sure that the blocks were all leveled with each other, and made sure that we both liked the curve.
After completing the first row of blocks, it was quick to stack the rest up. We did it row by row, and stopped every a few blocks to make sure everything was still level. After finishing each row, we backfilled the void behind the blocks with dirt, and tapped it tight against the blocks. With the built-in lip on the blocks, they should not tip forward, and having a solid backfill ensured that the blocks would not move backwards.
For most part of this retaining wall, we used six rows of blocks, with the bottom row almost buried and not seen from the photos. It looked pretty tall from the bare ground of the patio, but we knew that the flagstone pavers would add a couple inches, to make the retaining wall at the right height to sit on.
After completing the retaining wall, I was able to finally plant the new flower beds! Planting was the reward I gave myself after the heavy lifting. 🙂 More excitingly, I was able to “shop my own garden” by dividing and transplanting plants from other part of the yard. Being a natural extension of the patio garden I planted in 2020, this new flower bed was filled with mostly the same plants – peony plants, russian sages, and irises. This is the first year I had big and mature enough plants to divide and transplant, after four years of gardening in our yards. So it felt really good to do it!
After transplanting I mulched the new flower bed with leaves and branches gathered from the Fall cleaning. This is also the first Fall that we had enough clippings to mulch our own garden beds, without needing to purchase mulch. This is a big step towards self sustaining gardening. It truly felt like an accomplishment. 🙂
Here is the view of new garden bed as one walks to the shed. What you can not see from the photo, is a swale running down in the middle of the bed under the wood chip mulch. Our clay soil has a hard time retaining water. So I always try to create berms and swales on slopes.
I love how this new flower bed came out. I like the shape of the bed, how tidy it looked with mulch, and how well it defined the entrance to the patio. The irises and Russian sage will fill in next Spring and add height to this soft border, making the patio a little “room” by itself.
The lawn near the construction site looked a bit bare for now. We will reseed the grass here in Spring and this spot will look awesome next summer!
We worked on the retaining wall when the leaves started turning into their Fall colors. The blue sky and cool air made the strenuous work bearable, and we loved the look of the new retaining wall. Next step: pave the patio!