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First Yard Project

The first thing I tackled in the yard was excavating under the deck. Looking back, it may not have been a logical choice, but it is what called to me at the time. I had the idea of clearing out the slope to make a workroom and storage room under the deck. Yes, a man cave, if you will.

This is what it looked like before excavation.

Mostly, a lot of dirt. So, I need to figure out a way to build retaining walls to hold up the remaining dirt, and most importantly, hold up

the several pylons that support the deck. I attended a class at RCP on building a retaining wall.

Their plan involved some very expensive interlocking retaining wall block, with 6″ of gravel just inside the retaining wall through which water could drain, as well as a ditch with a drain pipe to direct that water elsewhere.

Here is a sketch of the process and a picture of what stacked retaining wall blocks look like.

Yikes! It's a lot of work and a lot of money.

So, I decided to look for another solution. Then, a friend mentioned how cities and industry use gabion boxes filled with rocks as retaining walls. Here is an example.

This seemed like a viable possibility, since my property is an old river bed, and there are plenty of rocks available in the soil. All I had to do was dig them out and put them in gabion cages.

So, where do you obtain the gabions? I checked online for sources, but it seemed like they were only for large industrial uses, with minimum order size 5,000 units or more. Not a good solution for someone looking to do things on a minimal budget. I check at Home Depot for a material that I could use to make my own cages. I found this.

Rolls of welded wire, 14 gauge, with openings 2″ x 4″. Stronger than chicken wire. I figured out how to fold it to make my own cages, and used 16 guage galvanized wire to provide cross support and tie cages together. More on making cages in another post. Here is my first model of gabion cage one foot deep, one foot tall, and about three feet wide.

I used weed retardant material to line the first cages, but after a while, I decided that wasn’t necessary if you used large enough rocks.

One huge advantage of building retaining walls out of rocks and wire is that water can flow right through the cages and down the slope. The water doesn’t build up on the inside as with traditional retaining wall blocks. So, you don’t need to provide the 6″ layer of gravel or the drain pipe at the bottom.

This innovation enabled me to erect retaining walls and raised garden beds throughout the garden at a minimal cost.

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