Spring Fever = Terracing

Every year around this time I seem to get waylaid by projects I wasn’t expecting.  This year it started innocently enough.  It was high time to deal with the north side of the yard.  We had some terraced garden beds that had always been neglected.  They had a few hardy succulents hanging on from the last owner but mostly just collected leaves.

North side bed

This bed extended almost all the way to the fence.  It was impossible to get through with a wheelbarrow.

Tight squeeze

If I wanted to bring anything into the backyard like loads of manure I had to go all the way around the house.  It was one of those annoying situations that aren’t quite bad enough to rise up the priority list. Last year when I built all the vegetable garden beds the impassable corner got elevated to level one.

North bed before

North bed after

More north bed after

I got as far as tearing off the end of the bed and moving enough dirt to get around the ex-bed.  I had great intentions of rebuilding but that’s as far as that project got.  All the parts sat around stacked up against the fence for a year.  This year I got a bug to put in asparagus, rhubarb and strawberry beds into the north end.

Rebuilding

First, the end of the bed needed to be finished off.  After it was rebuilt it got dug out and amended with alfalfa and manure.

Digging out the asparagus bed

I planted eighteen asparagus plants in the new bed.

Asparagus holes

Asparagus roots

Planting the roots

They looked like some sort of odd sea creatures.  The rhubarb and a couple New Zealand spinach went in down at the end.  Things were looking good.  I decided to add another row of wood to add some height to the upper bed for the strawberries.  It had been so sloped before that it didn’t hold water at all.

Strawberry bed

That’s when it started to snowball.  Now that the upper bed was improved it only made sense to fix the path next to it.  The path had been sloped and was annoying to stand on as we hung laundry so it got flattened too.

A new path needs some rock to line it of course.  If you’re going to line the path why not fix up the area around the upper gate to the chicken yard?  A little retaining wall might be nice…

Chicken yard

At this point I was running out of rock.  A deal was struck with my friend Rick.  I got his big (enormous) pile of rock left over from his landscaping project and he gets free eggs for life.   A sweet but dangerous deal.  Now there is nothing stopping me from expanding southward.  Manifest destiny and all that.

Sloping by the cold frame

See how the garbage can is tilting off to the left?  The whole back yard was just one big hillside when I started gardening.  As I’ve been putting in beds I’ve been flattening and filling as I work my way downhill.  It’s slow going but I did get a fairly flat upper level last summer around the vegetable beds.

Retaining walls

After the chicken yard gate was spruced up the next piece to address was the slope between the cold frames and the path that leads to the laundry line.  I’ve got just the thing!  Railroad ties from craigslist that we picked up last year.

Retaining walls from the south

The railroad ties got pinned together with rebar to make a nice stepped retaining wall.  Plus now we have a new flower bed to boot.

Slope before

Here’s another view of the back yard before the raised beds went in.  You can see how much it slopes before I put the vegetable beds in last year.

More after beds

The slope is leveling out as the beds are being built.

More round retaining wall

Another double level retaining wall made for a nice transition.

Round retaining wall

And leads nicely to the stairway…

Stairs before

Stairs after

After the stairs the wildflower garden was looking kinda shabby and slopey so it got a terracing makeover too.

Wildflowers before

Wildflowers after

Whew! It’s been an exciting and challenging few weeks putting all this together.  I can’t wait to see it all planted out this summer.  Our plan is to seed the new flower beds and “shop” from the front yard where we have a bunch of plants in a garden that just hasn’t ever come together.

Are we finished?  Nope.  The first thing Alesandra said when she saw the new back yard was “Wow this looks great!  You know I can see a pergola covered in grape vines and twinkly lights over there…”   Thanks Alesandra.  I wasn’t seeing it until you said that.  Now the yard looks unfinished without it!

All I wanted was some asparagus.

That’s OK, I needed somewhere to put the wood fired pizza oven anyway.

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14 Comments

  1. goat_girl
    Posted April 24, 2012 at 10:03 pm | Permalink

    WOOO HOOOOO…any spring fever internet contests you could enter????  You’d win for sure!

  2. Posted April 25, 2012 at 3:15 am | Permalink

    Holy Moly.  You make me look like a sluggard.  That it is a lot of work..but it also makes me rethink buying land that is hilly.  (our lot is fairly flat and I think I may take that a bit for granted).

    • Posted April 25, 2012 at 6:00 am | Permalink

      A bobcat or tractor can accomplish in an hour or two what I get done in a season.  If you do end up with hilly land just budget some machine time up front.  Terracing and earth berms are a great way to catch water.

  3. Posted April 25, 2012 at 6:23 am | Permalink

    Just wonderful! Mike — you’re a genius. It’s going to be beautiful this summer!

    • Posted April 25, 2012 at 7:52 am | Permalink

      Gosh, thanks.  Gotta get Molly planting.  

  4. Mike's Mom
    Posted April 25, 2012 at 7:38 am | Permalink

    Terraced gardens, home-grown food, resident chef — when you get the yurt finished, you’ll have all the necessary ingredients for a boutique B&B!

    • Posted April 25, 2012 at 7:51 am | Permalink

      I think that’s Molly’s evil plan.  She just lets me think I have free will.

  5. Nino
    Posted April 25, 2012 at 10:42 am | Permalink

    And Mike’s middle name is “AMBITIOUS”!  Makes me tired just looking at it.

  6. Posted April 25, 2012 at 8:33 pm | Permalink

    Mike, you’re the landscaper of forty centuries. Doing your bit to help stop empires-slaying erosion…

  7. heidi
    Posted April 26, 2012 at 9:57 am | Permalink

    Wow, that all looks amazing. Congratulations on achieving so much. The evolution of your property over the years has been nothing short of inspirational!!!

  8. Jeff @ Sustainable life blog
    Posted April 27, 2012 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

    that looks like a pretty awesome spread mike!  keep going.  Are you worried about using the railroad ties (because of the creosote) in your garden?

    • Posted April 27, 2012 at 7:36 pm | Permalink

      I know, gross creosote.  It is pretty smelly when it gets hot.  They’re going to be flower beds.  At least for now.  

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