Front Planting Bed


When I bought the house, one of the things I noted was that the yard was about 99% weeds, and there was no landscaping at all.  As spring turned into summer, I did discover that there is a rose bush and a barberry along the back fence, as well as some kind of ivy.

Anyway, I decided to kill off all the weeds with Roundup.  But after three passes, each about two weeks apart, I still had a yard full of weeds, although maybe not as many.  Trying to get rid of weeds this way is a job that never ends; after you kill off one set of weeds, that allows another set to get some sunlight and grow.  After being unimpressed with the effectiveness of Roundup, I then regretted using it at all after reading various reports about how toxic Roundup is and how it remains in the ground for a very long time, even showing up in crops grown a year after application.

I had planned to plant new grass in the fall and get a good lawn established.  A healthy lawn is the best way to control weeds, actually, although it’s inevitable that some will crop up here and there.  Since I had basically made the soil of my yard toxic, or at the very least inert, and still full of weeds anyway, I figured I would bring in new topsoil over the top of the existing yard.  The yard is very bumpy and has a lot of low spots anyway, so it wouldn’t hurt to raise it up.

I calculated that this was going to take 15 to 20 cubic yards of new topsoil.  That was an expensive proposition, not to mention far too much stuff to be pushing around by hand.  I’d have to rent a bobcat or something to move it around on the site and get it all leveled out and everything.  After worrying about this for a few weeks, trying to figure out how I could accomplish such a task, I decided to abandon that tack and pursue a slightly less ambitious fall project.

So, I decided to let the lawn go another season and instead build a planting bed around the front corner of the house.  I decided to make it a raised bed, again not really wanting to mess with the existing soil.  (Of course, eventually the larger shrubs and things are going to send roots down there, but maybe by then all the toxic stuff will have washed down into the water table and helped poison all of us a little more, lovely).  When I do take on the lawn, I want to grade it up towards the house, to provide better drainage away from the house.  Therefore, eventually the raised planting bed will just be a regular planting bed.

To make a raised bed, I would need some kind of front wall, of course, to hold in the soil.  Since I plan for this to be a temporary raised bed, I didn’t want to go to the trouble and expense of some kind of rock, brick, or decorative concrete wall.  Therefore, I decided to make it out of wood.

Yesterday evening I was running around with Nate and Yuki, and we stopped at Home Depot.  So I figured while we were there I would pick up some 2x12 redwood to make the wall of my planting bed.  Well… no luck, they didn’t have any redwood at all, much less 2x12’s.  I figured I’d have to go to a real lumberyard for that.

This morning I called a place out in Hillsboro that will deliver various landscaping materials like compost, topsoil, mulch, gravel, etc.  I ordered three cubic yards of compost, two cubic yards of mason’s sand, a cubic yard of topsoil, and a cubic yard of pea gravel.  All this delivered set me back $266.  (You can begin to imagine from this what 15 to 20 cubic yards would cost, although there are some price breaks for larger orders.)  They couldn’t give me a delivery time window other than “sometime today”, but said they would call before they headed out.

Early in the afternoon, I headed over to Nate’s house, and then we took off in his car.  After a stop at the Rebuilding Center, we went to Parr Lumber to see about the redwood 2x12’s.  After finally getting someone to talk too, I was dismayed and a little put out to discover that they didn’t have any either.  Well how about cedar 2x12’s?  No luck.  I thought this was a lumber supply?  Reminds me of the Cheese Shop sketch by Monty Python in which the store doesn’t actually have any cheese.  Thoroughly unimpressed with both the selection and the service at Parr Lumber, I vowed to never go there again.  Home Depot seems to have everything that they have.  Not that I’m thrilled with the service at Home Depot either…

Later I did some research on the net and discovered that redwood is very difficult to come by these days because there is only a limited supply from sustainable forests.  After numerous protests by environmentalists, a few years ago Home Depot pledged to not sell wood products from endangered forests.  Other lumber supply stores have followed suit.  So cedar seems to be the best alternative, unless you have the money for ipe.

So we went to Home Depot again, and I settled for pressure treated 2x6x12’s.  I didn’t really want to use pressure treated lumber, because of course I’m pretty sure whatever they use to treat it is toxic, but apparently the newer stuff is not as bad as the old stuff.  At any rate, I had little choice, since they didn’t seem to have any cedar in 2x dimensions.  Of course the landscape supply place called me while we were at Home Depot, and said they’d be at my house in about 45 minutes.  Of course the place was an absolute zoo, so we had to wait in a long line, nervously checking the time.  However, I knew that traffic would be terrible coming from Hillsboro, so I figured he wouldn’t really make it in 45 minutes.

We drove to my house and Nate and Yuki left to get some coffee, while I started working on assembling the boards for the wall.  In the meantime, the first delivery of my landscaping materials arrived.  They had told me on the phone that it would take two trucks, so I had expected two dump trucks to show up together.  But as it turned out, only one truck came, and then the poor guy had to make another round trip to Hillsboro and back (and back again) with the rest.  The truck was kinda cool, because it had a center divider which allows them to carry two different materials at the same time, without mixing them together.

Nate and Yuki returned, and helped me screw the 2x6’s together.  Naturally I didn’t have the foresight to buy some metal connectors to hold everything together, so I just toescrewed and did the best I could.  Along the long side of the planter, there were two sets of 2x6’s butted together.  This was a real problem connection, exacerbated by the fact that the existing grade was dropping out from underneath it.  Hm… that just wasn’t going to cut it, but good enough for now.

They had to take off, so I rode back to their house so I could get my car and return home.  When I got back to my place, the second delivery had arrived.

I’d only worked on the project for a couple hours (not counting the trip to Home Depot), but I decided to call it a day since I had errands to run and other things to do.