My wife had asked me last fall if I would construct another flowerbed for her on one side of the driveway, and of course I said "sure, i'll start on it next spring." So, the time has arrived for constructing the very big flowerbed that will have small trees, shrubs, and of course flowers in it later. This is gonna be a really big flowerbed, measuring 5 feet wide and 28 feet long. Landscaping timbers are the material of choice, and i'm gonna show you how to build it on a severely unlevel landscape.
Photo below - here's the area that was presented to me. It was completely engulfed in honeysuckle vines, small saplings, weeds of all kinds, and was cleared off a couple of weeks ago. Once relatively cleaned up, the entire area was sprayed with Roundup brush killer, so that no new growth would form over the next few weeks. As you can see in the photo, it is high in the middle, and also has a little dip that recedes into the crushed stone in the driveway.
Here's a video that explains how to lay out the area so that the box will be square.....
Photo below - after laying out the area with twine as seen in the video, begin at the lowest spot of elevation with timbers. Since the area is sloped pretty bad, a shallow trench was dug along the string which loosens the earth a bit, and also provides a base for the timbers to reside. The trench itself is only 2-3", for reference. After laying a 4 ft. level on top of an 8 ft timber laid in place, it clearly showed that the slope was pretty severe. Rather than dig a deep trench long enough to lay the entire timber in, I always opt for a much shorter starter piece. This is always done in 2 foot increments, and the one in the photo was cut to a length of 4 foot. Still out of level pretty bad, the amount of trenching needed to make level has been greatly reduced by going with a shorter piece.
Photo below - here's a good picture of the shallow trench that was dug along the string.
Photo below - once the 4 ft length of timber has been leveled along the long side, the short side should be leveled as well by putting a torpedo level on top, and adjusting the earth below as needed. This is where a 4 lb. hammer really comes in handy, as I just beat the crap out of the timber (ok, not really - but you get the idea) to get it level. :-)
Photo below - once completely level, a 6 foot piece is laid on top to create a stair-step effect. At 3" thick each on the timbers, this method has already reduced trenching on the left side by a total of 6". I don't know about you, but digging is for the birds, and i'd rather not do anymore than I have to! Blech!
Photo below - the remaining 4 foot piece that was leftover from the first piece cut is laid on top to gain even more elevation. Doing it this way gives it a uniform look, which gives a really good indication that lots of planning and detail went into it. Besides - everyone driving by in a car will see it, so it needs to look as good as possible (unlike some that I see while driving through town - sheesh!)
Photo below - an 8 ft piece is butted against that, and now we're getting somewhere.
Photo below - Using two levels, this new addition is checked again to see if any adjustments need to be made. The open areas underneath the stair-stepped timbers should be of no concern, because they have no effect on the rigidity of the construction, and will be backfilled with gravel and soil later. Nobody will ever know the difference in the end.
Photo below - to keep the timbers level on the short side, I simply wedge rocks underneath to keep them true. Hammered into place gently, they provide support while everything is put into place.
Photo below - timbers are stacked until the entire length is completely level on top, and in this case required 5 timbers at the lowest end. A depth of 15" of digging along most of the length was averted by doing it this way. Now to anchor these pieces into place with some 3/8" rebar.....
However, before that can be started I need to spend some time with Jude. Of course by presenting her frisbee to me like this, there's no way I could ignore her. I needed a break anyway, because it's really hot outside, and the towel used to wipe sweat away is drenched!
Photo below - Now that Jude has been appeased for a little while, it's time to begin anchoring the timbers into place. I do it with pieces of 3/8" rebar purchased from Lowes - which requires a 4 lb. sledgehammer, cordless drill, and a really long 3/8" butterfly drill bit. After lining the ends of the timbers up, simply bore through them, then drive the rebar through - and into the earth below. This is probably my least favorite part of constructing a box this way, because it's pretty tough going - as you can imagine.
Photo below - It's important to anchor the ends of connecting points, which keeps everything in place for years to come. Alternating the connection points between levels of timber helps make the seams more rigid, by using the solid pieces to hold the connected pieces together.
Photo below - here's a closeup of the same connection after the pieces of rebar have been pounded into place. You wanna drive the rebar down far enough that it doesn't protrude above the top of the timbers, because any part exposed would snag a person's clothing (if they were to sit on it) and quite possibly become a safety hazard.
Photo below - here's one of the long sides finished, which comes to around 35-36 feet in length. I made it this way so it would match another set of timbers located on the other side of the driveway. The vertical enclosure that belongs to the telephone company will not be included into the new flowerbed, because we certainly don't want to get into a tussle with them! Instead, the enclosed space will begin about 2 feet from the backside of it, which leaves 28 feet of usable space to construct the actual box within.
In part 2, i'll include the construction of the short sides - then use a tiller to break up the really tough soil so that alot of it can be removed. Two pretty large tree stumps are right in the way of progress, and they'll need to be completely removed before the other long side is added. This is one tough project to do, and roots of honeysuckle vines are everywhere! Man, those things are really invasive, and the roots go in all directions. Now that summer weather has finally arrived, the time spent on it is pretty brutal - as you can imagine. Part 2 will be posted about in a week or two, because I plan on it being the last one for this project. Stay tuned!
Take care, and happy building!