Here's the thing though. We have this beautiful maple tree that lives about three feet off of our fence. It belongs to the city. But I love that tree (even though I'll claim I don't when all its leaves fall off this autumn). It shields our view of the icky apartment complex across the street. It provides shade in the summer and a rain screen for the other 11 months of the year. Stanley the Squirrel hangs out in that tree. And our neighbor was parking on the exposed roots of that tree. In front of our house.
|The view from our front porch. The neighbors are all at work.|
I wondered how I could keep the neighbors from parking on those tree roots in front of our house. I could have just asked them politely to knock it off, but you never know how that type of thing is going to be received, and the last thing I wanted to do create bad blood with my neighbors. After some thinking, I realized that if I eventually wanted to plant any kind of shade-loving ground cover under that tree, it would need to be contained somehow. I wouldn't want any ground cover to spread all the way out to the pass through and I definitely wouldn't want it to be driven over and parked on by anyone. It seemed like building a short retaining wall around the tree would keep the neighbors off the roots and add a nice little level planting area for some curb appeal. Cost was also a consideration. We were encouraged to maintain the swath of land the city owned that was in front of our property when we moved in (our tiny town doesn't have the money or personnel to maintain all city property), but we were warned that any improvements we made to city land could potentially be ruined if say, the city needed to use a backhoe to access pipes that run in front of our property. A small retaining wall wouldn't cost a ton of money, and although I'd be sad if the city took a backhoe to it, I wouldn't be heartbroken.
|Ready for fixing-upping.|
Here's how things went down. A trip to Lowe's and thirty 4x12 retaining wall blocks happened first. Those puppies are 27 pounds each.
|Who needs a gym membership?|
After considering the shape and size of the retaining wall I wanted, I started right in with a measuring tape, shovel, and trowel. I had hoped going slowly and checking (and double-checking!) with a level as I went would speed things once I got the first layer of blocks set. I didn't bother to use proper setting technique with gravel and whatnot because this retaining wall was getting built on tree roots. Eventually it's gonna shift, no matter how by-the-book I went, so I decided to cut some corners and save some cash by skipping the gravel.
|Just getting started.|
After a couple hours of work I had used all 30 blocks and called it quits for the day.
|Now it acutally looks like something!|
The next day involved another trip to Lowe's for 40 more blocks and two tubes of masonry Loctite.
|Good stuff, Maynard.|
I laid down a thick line of the Loctite and went to town, placing the blocks as fast as I could. I'm still impressed that I remembered to get a picture.
About 45 minutes more of work and some very tired arms, we had this:
|Two layers high.|
And then this:
|Three layers is enough!|
I decided to leave the back side of the structure open for a couple of reasons. I'm not sure if I want this to extend into our yard or not, so leaving it open here gives me time to live with it for a while and make a decision at some later point in time. There is not room to park back there, so it'll serve it's purpose of keeping the neighbors from parking on the tree roots as is. You can't see the unfinished sides from the road, and it saved me a not tiny amount of money in retaining wall blocks (and eventually, planting soil).
|Neighbors are home but not parked on the roots!|
And as long as I was out there, I limbed up the maple tree (with the help of Steve's excellent ladder skills) and cut out the random rope and bungee cord that have been stuck on the tree since we bought the house.
I can't wait to get some soil in there and start filling it with groundcover! I still love the idea of wild ginger, but the romantic in me would love something that would drape over the edge of the retaining wall without going totally invasive. Maybe some vinca? I'm open to suggestion!
PS- This project is featured in I Heart Organizing's Great Outdoors Linky Party!