This weekend saw our warmest weather for almost 5 months, so it was an absolute pleasure to get outside and work in the garden. And with the mild sunshine it was a lovely excuse to focus on something other than the areas that have been badly damaged by winter.
I continued the retaining wall project, which, due to the constant snowy weather from July is quite behind schedule.
To be environmentally friendly, EVERY stone was dug up from the garden while preparing the soil (this gives you an idea of how AWFUL my soil is) and all the walls are dry-stacked.
So apart from the new plants and mulch this new garden area has had almost no carbon input as it was all dug and laid by hand.
I’ll be removing the old hills hoist which, while super-practical, has all of the charm of a high-tension electricity pole, so it was lovely to get the second terrace and new drying area constructed and planted out all in a couple of days before the rain set in.
These stack-stone walls are surprisingly strong…the early ones I created have stood up to floods, frost, destructive hail, heavy snow, fallen tree branches and unsupervised children.
The other benefit is that without mortar, the wall won’t crack in hard frosts, water can’t build up behind the wall and push it over, and gaps in the stones are the perfect insect hotels (and when the soil fills the gaps, plant nooks!).
And there is the environmental and financial benefits of not using huge amounts of concrete.
But to be on the safe side, and given that I mostly have rather small stones to work with (if you were buying stones from a quarry you would want at least double the size), I’ve made sure that these walls are no more than 500-600mm / 1′ – 2′ high.
Here is a detail of the new drying area, showing how fiddly the work is:
The drying area also has the Leylandii hedge along the perimeter which will hide it completely from view. It will be trimmed once it reaches 1.8m / 5’10”.
I only have a 1000m² (¼ acre) garden, so screening utilitarian areas is a must!
When the weather gets warmer I will cover the grass patch with black plastic to kill it prior to laying pea-gravel.
I have been lucky to have enough space to be able to make the garden beds at least 3 – 5m / 10 – 16′ wide to accommodate the trees and shrubs:
This is how the terraces meet up with the stairs to get to the upper garden and shows the curve around the hill to larger trees (behind that ‘fingers of god’ effect):
There is one more terrace to go in front of the lowest rock wall before this part of the project can be called complete.
Even though it isn’t evident in the picture, it’s still uncomfortably steep and will need another half a dozen new stairs to link up with the bottom of the back garden towards the house.
The rocks all look very raw, but they age quickly and beautifully, and these stone walls are a large part of the vernacular around here.
Here you can see similar walls in an award-winning garden nearby:
Once covered in lichen and plantings, it shows what can be achieved with exactly the same stone….but the real reason for doing this was to not have to push a mower up a 35° weed-covered slope, or to try and keep plants hydrated during summer…the terraces slow the movement of water down, and allow it to soak in (another plus for the environment).
Now, where’s my back-brace 🙂