Apr 13, 2013

little bit o' landscaping

we hemmed and hawed a lot during the winter about what kind of border we wanted around the flower beds in front of our house. well, with all the beauuuuuutiful weather lately, fish and i ((mostly fish)) finally felt up to tackling it. 

see the step-by-step after the jump!

that's right: for the first time ever, i can tell you the process we followed for an outdoor project since i stayed to help fish and didn't wimp out like normal. p.s. i didn't want to get my good camera dirty while i was toiling away so i took all the "action" shots with my phone.

for this stage -- just building the wall, not prepping to plant or anything like that ((that's next time!)) -- here's what we used:

we're by no means experts, but here's what we did...

on our intial trip to home depot, we bought just ten concrete blocks and three matching caps. we first wanted to make sure the color looked good with our house...and we also wanted to play around to see exactly what arrangement we liked best. then we'd know how many total blocks and caps we'd need to buy.
this picture is just one block high with a capper. we thought it looked a little wimpy so decided to do two blocks high.

the next day, bright and early, we headed to home depot for the blocks. we used my rav4 instead of renting a truck so we only bought about a third of what we'd need -- so we wouldn't overstrain my car's suspension. concrete is heavy. when we ran out of bricks, we went back for more. and etc.

step number one: dig a trench. we wanted a bit of the first block to show above ground, but we dug a lot deeper and wider than the block's dimensions. you'll see why in a few steps.

i must admit, we had some help from K...

...and a construction crew:

after digging the trench, fish tamped the soil down.

then, it was time for the three-part base layers. first up, was pea gravel. fish poured a generous amount along the whole length of our trench.

it was about this point that we realized we severely underestimated the amount of pea gravel we needed. back to home depot! :)

once the pea gravel was distributed, fish smoothed it fairly level:

...then tamped it down.

next layer:
(paver base = limestone)

fish smoothed it out, tamped it down:

final layer:

smoothed out, tamped down:
see why the ditch had to be so deep?

since we had one available, we chose to toddler-tamp for extra measure:

each brick has a small lip that helps keep it in place when stacked. we found it easier to chisel the lip off for the bottom layer of blocks since they would just be sitting on level ground, not interlocking with a layer of bricks beneath.
chiseling the lips became my job after a while -- it was way fun and made me feel very strong and capable.

time to start laying bricks!

fish checked he was level in several directions:

...then rubber-malleted the brick into the layers beneath:
...and finally, filled behind the brick with more pea gravel to keep it in place.

after the first layer is down, it's just a matter of stack brick upon brick, using the lips to quasi-lock them in place.

we already loved it after just a few blocks were laid!

...and now this is the part where i actually helped instead of just snapping pictures -- because those few blocks in the last photo magically transforms into THIS:

we didn't quite finish. it will have to wait until fish's next weekend off. sigh.

i'll leave you with some shots from the good camera:

it looks fanterbulous (yes!) with the bricks and stones our house is made of:

next on the agenda: planting! yay!

i think we have enough soil. maybe.

* mari


  1. I'd love to be able to do this to my garden one day. It looks great!

    1. thank you! it wasn't that hard...just a lot of manual labor. good luck!

  2. Awesome job! Love the way it looks with the brick of the house!

  3. It's amazing what a little land and hardscaping can do for a house! It's also labor but worth it in the end. We will be starting on some of our back yard this spring and let me tell you I am not sad one bit that this preggo won't be able to participate much!!

    1. ha! lucky you!! i lucked out in that lil' a is finally getting old enough to participate meaningfully in manual labor! :D


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