Complete Beginner Here - Retaining Wall Ideas

shelzmikeJuly 1, 2010

Hello! First let me start out by saying that I am completely new to landscaping, besides mowing grass and digging some holes here and there for various things! Anyhow, we have lived in our cozy home for about 6 years now and embarassingly enough I have not really done much to make it look nice outside. I mow and whatnot, but there is a lot of work to be done. I had not done anything because to be honest, we were not planning on living there too long, but looks like we are here at least for a while and have plans to remodel the inside and so I wanted the outside to look good as well. Plus I am looking for another hobby to do with the family (This would be me, my lovely wife, and three kids - 12, 11, and 3).

I have already started on a few small things, and I am sure you will all see me here frequently with many questions!

Let me also say that we are working with a small budget for the time being while my wife and I both finish our degrees and while I am the only one really working.

That being said, the first thing that I have a question about has to do with a very ugly retaining wall that I have to see every day. Our house is built into a hill and our house is actually lower in elevation than the road. When they built the house in 1943, they used a 4 foot tall retaining wall to hold back the street essentially. :)

It is plain concrete - flat and ugly and looks like a sidewalk stood up on its side! My first thought was to simply use rocks on the oustide of the wall to have a much better look. This would be a fine idea it is just we do not have the money to spend. I could do the work myself, but wanted to go another route that is cheaper. (Sorry I do not have any pictures by the way - I cannot seem to find any that I have taken of the ugly wall!).

So, I got to thinking, what are some other ideas I could use to fix up this wall? By the way, I had thought about shrubs in front, but that won't really work because our front yard is not that big and the kids use the front to play (the backyard is just one big hill) and I think that something like that would take up too much yard.

Although, if I used tall skinny types of shrubs or small trees, that might work?

What about some sort of plant that would crawl on it and eventually cover the ulgy cement? Thanks in advance for any suggestions!

Mike

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ilikemud_2007

Hi Mike,

Pictures would be a huge help, so see if you can post some. You could grow a nice evergreen vine or even stucco that wall, but we also need more info. How much sun does the wall get? what is the style of your house? what is it sided with? You say the yard isn't very deep so it would make sense to me to coordinate the house and wall in some way.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2010 at 7:33PM
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lehua49

Hi Mike,

Find an artist who would do your wall for some beer. He could paint a garden mural with perspective. Maybe with some kids playing in the yard and add a dog. I hope your degrees are in the graphic arts or you can advertise at your university. What a class project for some energetic students. If it doesn't turn out well just paint it out with a train tunnel. Or maybe ivy would be nice. I like the stucco idea too. Aloha

    Bookmark   July 1, 2010 at 8:07PM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

Hi, shelzmike. I'm glad to hear your wall is in good repair, as the alternative can get pretty expensive!

What's at the top of the wall? How do you feel about plants hanging down from the top?

How close is the wall to the street? Are there any state, county, or municipal regulations that say what can't be planted near the street? (I am also below the street, though my front yard is not so low as yours; I'm on a 2-lane, semi-rural state route and have to follow state guidelines about what can be planted within 5 and 20 feet on the downhill side of the road.)

    Bookmark   July 1, 2010 at 8:49PM
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wellspring

Shelzmike-
I've learned tons of things just reading threads on this forum , often just opening threads on topics I think won't have anything to do with anything I'd ever need in my landscape only to discover some useful hint or tidbit.

Try putting "retaining wall" in the search box on this forum. It'll get you 262 old threads. Some of it won't be relevant to your situation; but I think you will also come across general ideas and suggestions that will help. It may lead you to questions you haven't even thought about yet.

I know IÂve read "retaining wall" threads on the specific issues of homes with slope toward the house. The one below is recent. The home is in the mountains, but with the slope descending toward the back of the home and away from the front, if that makes sense. I didn't re-read, but I think there is also conversation about different ways to disguise the RWs.

Look forward to hearing more about your new adventure outside. Watch out though. the landscape design / gardening bug is very addictive.

Here is a link that might be useful: Two Bland Retaining Walls

    Bookmark   July 1, 2010 at 10:26PM
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lazy_gardens

Where do you live? Zone 7 isn't quite specific enough.

A combination of paint and some tallish plants will do.

If it faces south, east, or west, plant sunflowers in front of it, or hollyhocks.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2010 at 6:56AM
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silversword(9A)

I've seen them stuccoed and painted... pretty inexpensive and would bring a lot of color (or not) to your yard. Then any plantings over it or around it would have a nice backdrop.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2010 at 12:18PM
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