Home-made retaining walls will soon have your sloping garden on a level footing, writes TINO CARNEVALE
On why hay bales are like Lego for gardeners as there is no end to their usefulness
Not all land is created equal. My garden for example is quite sloped but we have still managed to make lots of useful areas for plant production and family enjoyment. Here are four methods of do-able DIY to help hold back the hills.
Hay bales are like Lego for gardeners. There seems to be no end to their usefulness, from an instant garden bed to an elaborate garden fort. My garden is on a fairly steep slope and creating rows of bales has allowed me to terrace my vegie patch giving me not just wider, but also level beds that are easier to work. The bales also act as seating and Eden loves poking seeds into them so they often end up becoming extensions of the beds.
Hay is cheaper than straw but it does tend to be heavier on the weed seed, but as the weeds germinate out of the top of the bale you can turn it upside down and suppress them.
In 12 months’ time when the bales resemble soggy Weetbix they are perfect to pull apart and spread around the garden.
Living in a cooler state we are all familiar with the draft-excluding door snake. I like to make a version of that, which I can only describe as a garden slug. They are really useful when you are trying to prevent erosion along a wavy contour line or to retain mulch around a tree.
You will need some material (I find hessian the best to use but even an old bedsheet will do). Lay this out flat and you will then need something to fill it with. I have used things like garden soil, chipped weeds and lawn clippings but filling them with compost or manure will mean as the slug is soaked by rain and breaks down it acts as a tea bag, slowly releasing its goodness into the soil.
Lay a long, narrow strip of the mix on the sheet and then roll it up like a giant burrito. You can just tie each end and lash around lengths of the slug with garden twine every 30cm or so but if you do it this
Hay bales are like Lego for gardeners. There seems to be no end to their usefulness …
way, build it in situ as they are not as durable and can lose shape in the move. I like to sew the slug together as I get to show off my sewing skills and they last for twice as long.
Putting bedding plants like thyme into your completed slug by cutting holes in the top using a sharp knife and shoving seedlings in will not only eventually give you a lovely border of plants it will also mean that the job of retention is continued well after the slug has completely disintegrated.
Another cheap and simple temporary retention method is to go to your wood pile — if you have one that is — and pick out all the best chopping blocks. The
round flat, heavy ones standing around 40cm high are perfect. Just make sure they have a level footing to stand on and they can make an effective fairly longlasting wall. I dug out a horse shoe shape in my garden to make a fire pit and I used this method. It’s perfect because they double as seating.
Gabion walls are clearly the sturdiest and the most involved of these options. They are basically a wire mesh basket usually filled with stone although sometimes people get creative with them and start to place objects like old crockery or kids toys for decorative purposes.
They are attractive and functional and if like me, you have an overabundance of rock in your garden they can be a great way of using your stone as a resource rather than a negative.
You can construct your own gabion basket but they are also available to purchase and for the work they do they are quite reasonably priced. You can either pour the rocks in or place them, which is more time consuming but gives you a much neater finish.
I filled the back of mine with old concrete that I had dug up from around the garden and capped the top with some rough-sawn slabs of timber to create a usable bench top.
Gabions drain freely so there is no need to put in drainage behind them and as a general rule you are OK as long as it is no higher than 1m. If in doubt though it is always best to check with the local council.