Front Yard Makeover — Native Plant Edition: Retaining Wall Building!

Phase 1: Build Retaining wall for vine maple area. Complete! Hoo-yeah.

What Project are you Doing?

Goal #2 for 2022 was designing a new front yard landscape dedicated to Willamette Valley Native plants. Also managing storm-water and weeds are of paramount concern. Also, it’ll add lots of square footage to “area dedicated to native plants” for our Backyard Habitat Certification.

Being the front yard means it also must be conventionally beautiful so my HOA will approve it, and so my neighbors will love it too. At first it felt like an impossibility, but once I dove in, I appreciated that the restrictions narrowed my options so I didn’t have to make so many decisions. For example, I wanted a deciduous, native tree that will not be taller than 20′ at maturity. Easy, there’s one: vine maple. ✅ The fall foliage just happens to be spectacular too. And so it went:

  • Level the ground in front of the tree: retaining wall goes here. ✅
  • Manage storm water: I have one down spout, and one viable spot for a rain garden. ✅
  • Conveyance trench goes here. ✅
  • Walking path to back yard.✅
  • Cover left over soil with bark nuggets. ✅

I wrote up an email with my plant wish list and this drawing:

Phase 1: Retaining Wall. ✅ P2: River Bed and Rain Garden. P3 Plants. P4 Pathway.

To my surprise they accepted immediately, with no push-back that the design did not include grass.

Next I stalked Sparrowhawk Native Plant Nursery waiting for their fall plant sale. I placed the order and waiting for pickup in October. Next, the wait for the rain began. Finally, November brought soft soil, materials, and the time to get started. Monday I finally sunk a shovel in the ground. Yay!

How I Built the Retaining Wall

  • Call before you dig.
  • Remove old retaining wall.
  • Dig trench for new retaining wall, use displaced soil to fill in old trench.
  • Pack and tamp 3 inches of 3/4 minus roadbase gravel.
  • Level, level, level, the trench base.
  • Painstakingly level the first row of blocks, front to back, side to side, with the former. This step takes two minutes short of an eternity.
  • Once the first layer is leveled, crank out the rest of the wall in ten minutes. Verify level. Bask in the glory of a little bubble.

Retaining Wall Resources

These two articles have simple and easy to follow directions with some important dos and don’ts.

What’s Next: Digging the Conveyance Trench and Rain Garden.

Your Turn: What projects are you planning for the dormant season?

Front Yard Native Plant Makeover Article Series

  1. Retaining Wall Complete 
  2. Digging for Me, Lots of Rain Garden Resources for You
  3. Moving Mountains of Mulch 
  4. Nine Steps to Planting A Tree (Vine Maple)
  5. How to Plant Perennials so They Can Thrive

4 responses to “Front Yard Makeover — Native Plant Edition: Retaining Wall Building!”

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