Tino Carnevale:

Home-made re­tain­ing walls will soon have your slop­ing gar­den on a level foot­ing, writes TINO CARNEVALE

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - NEWS -

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.

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