Thursday, July 31, 2014

Stone and Sweat - Building a Low-Lying Wall for the Circle Bed

 As the summer season approaches its zenith, there's so much to do around the garden.  Plants need to be staked, spent flowers need to be deadheaded, veggies need to be picked, cuttings need to be taken for next year's plants, and seeds need to be sown for the fall garden.  And then there are the weeds, which in the middle of my garden beds have been drowned out by the lushness of our ornamental plants.  Those along the edges of the borders, on the other hand, have seemingly thrived mainly due to my lack of attention.

 Normally the weeds within our driveway wouldn't be so aggressive as they are now.  But when you add a new source of nutrients to the area (like the soil mix I added to the circle bed), the plants you don't want to grow seem to benefit as much as the plants you do want to grow. 

The neat edges that I'd worked so hard to achieve earlier this spring were now lost in a sea of green carpeting.  A couple of weekends ago, I decided that enough was enough and that something had to be done about it. 

 So out came the hoe.  It took me the better part of a day to remove all of the crab grass and other weeds that encroached on the circle bed.  By the time I was done, I had a couple of good-sized blisters on my hands to show for it.  

 After the weeds were carted away, I raked along the border to smooth out the edge.  At this point, I was willing to call this project done.  But that was not in the cards.

When I first devised the circle garden, I had in mind that I would line it with cobblestone.  What I didn't anticipate was that twelve yards of soil mix would be added to it, resulting in a steep slope all along the edges touching the driveway.  This made planting along the edge rather difficult and resulted in a look that was less than neat.  Eventually, I decided that cobblestone as an edging material would not work and that I would need something a bit more substantial to line the bed.  What I settled on was a low-lying wall that would help retain the soil and allow me to plant to the very edge of the bed.

 Earlier this summer, we visited several local quarries to browse for landscaping stones.  I've always loved the look of a dry-stack wall made of flat stones.  Unfortunately, I couldn't justify spending a lot of money on landscaping stones when there are other more pressing home renovation projects that need to get done within the next year or two (like the entire upstairs of our farmhouse).  In the end, I decided to use what we had on hand and what was FREE. 

 When the prior owners replaced the septic system a few years ago and installed a new leach field, the excavation left a big mound of rocks and dirt to one side of our front lawn.  This past weekend, I dug into the mound and collected as many big rocks as I could.  I also scavenged in the woods behind our home.  In the end, I had enough to create a low-lying wall all around the circle bed. 

I know next to nothing about building a wall so the end result wasn't perfect.  But then again, I really like the rough and rustic look of this wall.  It seems to fit our surroundings well since we used materials derived from our own land.  And best of all, I was able to accomplish this project without spending a single dime.  Soon, I'll order more soil mix to fill the backside of this wall.  Eventually, I'd also like to add a fresh layer of gravel to the driveway.  But for now, I can sit back and enjoy the circle bed again.


  1. I love the look. I did the same thing at my last house. I scavenged for rocks in the back woods and found enough to make the bed lining our driveway. I had put some raspberries there, but the slope was a bit too much to hold onto the soil when it no longer had grass. Like you I was no expert. But the wall has stood for over 20 years now, so it doesn't take much. Eventually the soil on the other sides works its way in and everything holds together pretty well. And it is a lot of work to do. I only had to make a wall on one side and mine was a lot shorter too.

  2. I thought it looked good with the encroaching weeds, but now it looks fabulous. I know what hard work that is, I've carted many a rock down off my hillside to make little walls and to border some beds.

  3. Your rock wall looks wonderful!

  4. Thomas, your garden is very beautiful, full of colours and flowers :) I like it a lot!
    And the low-lying wall you made fits the circle bed very well, it now looks tidier and better.

  5. WOW, that is brilliant. I know that must have been a LOT of hard work. Our farm doesn't have ANY stones like that around....BUT, our landscaping in town does have some large stones. I'm thinking that if every time I/we went to the farm we took a small load of stones, in a year, we'd have enough to do something nice. Thanks for the inspiration!

    And again, it looks beautiful, so old school like it's always been there.

  6. Wow, that's super hard work, I love the look of your garden, it's beautiful!

  7. That wall, I must say, is gorgeous - just love it. We have a ton (literally) of rocks. Every time we dig anywhere on our property we end up digging half dirt, half rocks - some of them quite big. Took me 4 hours (!) to dig a 16" hole for a new birdfeeder last week because of all the rocks. But every rock we pull out is placed in a pile out back, just waiting for a future project - and your post has been inspirational on that front.

  8. Thomas, what you have accomplished with the gardens since you moved in is simply remarkable!
    Beautiful, all, and heart warming. Hope all is well with you and your family. I think of you often.