As the weather’s been warming up, my thoughts have turned to my garden. One of the hard parts about leaving Ottawa was also leaving behind the wonderful community garden and oven and all the amazing people involved with it. I have found gardening helpful in helping me to relax, which may seem trivial but is actually essential to managing my health, and actually surprisingly difficult for me. My parent’s garden is something they have been working on for some time. There are several elements put together painstakingly and so I worried about the possibility of getting a space in it. But luck was on my side and with a little persuasion, I was granted a section to do with as I pleased, provided the end result was also attractive and fit with the overall garden aesthetic.
I was even given permission to tear up a section of grass. This also after managing to convince them of the benefit of planting clover instead of reseeding grass.
I started with transplanting a large rose my parents had in the section. I planted it with the other roses which conveniently had a section of space. The other rose unfortunately had a taproot that I swear goes down directly to the bowels of hell for all the luck I had trying to dig all of it out. A Raspberry bush now sits where it once was.
Cutting the turf turned out to be a bit of a job. Especially since I was also working on trying not to kill all of it, thinking to reuse it elsewhere.
Finally, it got done though and I had a nice large patch of… clay and mud. Which let me tell you, loved to take on water. I had my work cut out for me.
I read up on the logistics of building a retaining wall, the aesthetic of which I hoped would match the overall manicured appearance of the rest of the garden. For the wall I intended to use cinder blocks which I had managed to find for free through both a Facebook giveaway group and Kijiji.
I drove around to different places to get the bricks, sometimes having my dad along to help load the car. I also used their SUV rather than my little compact, since I’m not sure I could have fit them in there.
As it turns out, my dad also had experience in building a wall, as does my partner who I consulted during the project.
To start I had to dig and level the ground as much as possible. I decided on the depth of one half-block which would make up the foundation of my wall.
Once I had the ground as level as possible, it was time to start laying down the bricks. In order for the wall to work, you have to have each brick level side to side and front and back, and also lever with the brick next to it. So, you find yourself straightening out this patch of mud clay, then laying down a layer of gravel, then on top of that a layer of stone dust. These layers allow water to pass through the wall without disturbing its stability. Without these layers, the pressure from the water building up behind it, could cause it to shift, burst, topple over, and otherwise just be complete ruin.
You also want the bricks lined up straight btw, otherwise your wall is going to look bad.
You find yourself finally using a lot of that high school geometry, including using angles to determine whether you are building at the right angle for you wall, and all that. Additionally, there was determining the total area of your wall and therefore how many bricks you would need to build it based on what height you wanted it, and so on. It turned out we were just 16 bricks short of what we needed, so with they agreed to pay for the last set of bricks necessary.
I was using both a long level and a short level. The long one for aligning the bricks to each other, while the short one helped make sure that each brick was itself level.
The first wall took a day and a half. The second part took about three hours. The third part took a little longer mainly because of the need for pruning quite a few roots, branches and whatnot but got done in the same day as the second part.
As it turned out, we overestimated the total height of the wall needed which left us with just enough bricks to decide to use those for the fourth part, which up till then I had intended to make do with some wood. This it turns out was a wise decision, since I hadn’t considered the size of my plot and this wall allows me access to the other side of the bed to be able to harvest and plant there. Sometimes lucky accidents happen.
After most of the wall had been built, it was time to get the capping stones. My dad took me to St. Amands Landscape Depot, which is a really cool place with lots of different types of rock. We found a set of good looking but less expensive stone. The end result looked really good!
After that it was a matter of filling it. I started with laying down weed mat. This is to make sure any stuff growing below wouldn’t poke its way back up through.
After that it was a layer of leaves.
What I should have done after that is either taken some tree logs, or hay, or something to raise up the level, but instead we went straight for soil. It took a LOT!
Still, I have my bed, and I’ve gotten to planting. I can’t wait to see how all this works, but so far at least, my radishes are looking great.