Redesigning an Old Retaining Wall

In Judah it was said, “The strength of those who bear the burdens is failing. There is too much rubble. By ourselves we will not be able to rebuild the wall.” –Nehemiah 4:10


This is what I woke up to when I went out to start digging Saturday morning.

Deer Tracks- day 5

Deer. Stinkin’ deer problems already in March. It’s super cool to have wildlife in the yard, but we need to come to a compromise! They have circled the house and have already eaten the flowers off the previous owners’ plants. They haven’t touched the crocuses; so that’s good to note. I will never know what these strange flowers are that are coming up; it will remain a mystery. They sort of looked like a giant asparagus before the deer ate them off (hyacinth maybe?). I will need to start thinking defensively. . . .

Long story short- this is where I left off on Day 5. More digging, more dirt removal. But I met more neighbors who are absolutely lovely- an added benefit of being outside all day, people will stop and talk to you.

This is where I left on my 5th day of digging.

End of Day 5


It’s becoming a little easier to see where I am going with this. From the corner of the driveway going straight up the bank will be stairs going up to a two tiered patio and walkway to the front door (if the plan doesn’t change- it usually does a few times).

End of Day 6

I was just starting to feel really good about reusing this block (kind of rustic and FREE) when a passerby made a comment about my “interesting choice of block” from his shiny new sports car. This happens to be someone I have been introduced to for the “first time” about 6-7 times over the years.  He never remembers me. I’m counting on his short term memory loss to kick in when my plants grow up and everything is beautiful.

Day 6- side view

I suppose if my choices could be described as anything, “interesting” is as good a word as any.


I couldn’t pile anymore dirt in the front for the patio, so I had to find new places that were need of dirt. I started a berm around these bushes on the side of the house. I think eventually I will till up more soil around it and put my wildflowers here.


The neighbor came over and told me the story behind this trench in the yard. Apparently there were a couple of years where we got horrible rains, and the previous owner thought he could redirect the water away from the basement. Nate and I prefer to use a different method. We can raise the window wells or build up another berm or a few other options. We’ll see when we get there. It took 3 loads of dirt to fill this trench.


And this is where I left off on Day 7. I have carved out the other side for symmetry. And the bank beyond it, next to the house, I will carve into taller and larger tiers that will hold some hardscape bushes tightly around the house.



Day 7-1

I am still missing the other half of my wall. I’m about to run into the tricky part- merging the front tiers into the two larger tiers by the house. And I have made a huge mess in my driveway that is starting to make it’s way toward the neighbor’s driveway. Sorry!! I went over there and swept away the dirt twice already.

Now that the plants have started to come up on this property, I can see what I have to work with. I found a huge clump of decorative grass in the back so I started moving those to the tiered flower beds.

Day 7-2

Day 7-3

This is where I have run into the larger tiers, and for an added bonus I have run out of block. Stink. Now what am I going to do? I’m in a position where I have to stop or go buy retaining wall block. And I do not want to do that right now. So I cleaned up my mess and called it a day.

Day 7-4


This is where I have started dumping dirt in the back yard. I still have to push it all uphill to get it there. I decided the walkway next to the house was not large enough. I found some old timbers and supporting posts and created a temporary wall to hold my dirt up. If I didn’t do that, it would all wash away onto the neighbors driveway. This way there will be more room to walk, reduces the slope for water issues, and might become the perfect place for wildflowers around these bushes. At this point I plan to plant my gladiolus along the fence behind this wall. They will be tall enough to peek up and camouflage this chain link fence. I’m also considering spreading out some white clematis seed there also.

Day 8- dirt dump

I have become desperate for block. I started gathering any sort of block I could find around the property to hold this wall in case of rain. I found broken bricks, and random retaining wall pieces, and garden edging. The end result was not attractive.  I started adding mulch in the beds (I had some left over from last year).

Day 8-1

Day 8-2

Day 8-3

I found a bunch of hostas that were coming up in the back and front of the house and planted some of those in the tiers also. I made small groupings of rocks to hold down the mulch from the wind and also for pretties.

Nate came out eventually and said, “You know, if I broke up that front walk today you would have more block to use.” Yeah!! (Please see post FRONT.WALK.REMOVAL)

I brought one of the benches I built in Slater out to the corner since we won’t be using these steps until the patio is finished. I set out a couple of flower pots that will soon be filled with something pretty. And this is where we ended Day 9. I can see the finish line!


My wonderful Nate is watering my transplanted flowers for me after doing all that work on the front walk.




  1. Wowza! Active lady! That’s a very impressive retaining wall. I think it looks incredible! Don’t listen to that hoity-toity sports car guy!

    Liked by 1 person

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