Jungle with a side of concrete

Jungles are not meant to have concrete poured in them, but sometimes concrete is the way to ensure our jungle stays alive and well. Or at least we hope that is the case.

As noted in my last post, we spent the weekend working on putting in the posts that will make our new retaining wall for our upper beds, as well as along our entire path. It will not be a high wall, with the maximum height at any spot being just shy of 3′, but we wanted to make sure that it was still sturdy despite the low amount of weight that will be pushing against it. We are still sticking with our idea of wooden posts with metal fencing material on front and back with rocks filling between the posts for a gabione hybrid look.

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Inspiration for our retaining walls
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Nice Hole…

I borrowed a fence post hole shovel from my parents and away we went. For the most part the holes were very easily dug and it took us much less time that expected to dig 2′ deep holes.

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Sand Hole…

However, we do of course have that pesky sand vein that goes through one of the key areas of our path! As everyone knows from spending a little time at the beach, for every shovel that you scoop out, the hole gets wider rather than deeper. This is what we experienced on 3 of the holes. So, we had to come up with a plan on how to put some posts in deep, without having to dig a 3′ wide hole!

Our thought was to use the heavy duty cardboard cement moulds. We bought them at a 6″ diameter as our posts are 4″ squared posts. Next we had to figure out how to get them into the ground without having to pre-dig the hole. Luckily, K was able to get the holes a little deeper than we had managed earlier in the morning, and I was able to wiggle the mould down at least 1.5′. This made for a perfect depth for the posts. Sure it would have been nice to go 2′, but I will take what we could get!

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Sand Hole problem fixed!

IMG_3516Once we had all the holes dug, and the moulds into the 3 problem holes, we were ready to start putting in our posts. Now, I have never used concrete to set posts so this was all a fun learning experience. We filled the bottom of each hole with about 3-4 inches of crushed rock, with the post sitting into that rock at least an inch. IMG_3536We levelled them all, with a slight tilt towards the uphill and were happy with how everything looked. In the photos below, you will notice that some of our posts are taller in the middle than at the beginning. This is because we plan to back-fill behind the fence to create a flat bed, and because our hill is on a side slope, this resulted in kind of a wave motion to our wall. I think it will look really beautiful when all it said and done…but then again it could look like total crap and we will just have to live with it. Hahaha, I’m optimistic that it is going to look really cool and we will love that it is not uniform.

Now, I am going to reiterate that I have not dealt with filling in fence holes with concrete…or really working with concrete at all. So I did what I have done with almost everything else in our backyard and I started researching on the internet. I found other DIY sites and I also checked out what the pros were saying. I was lucky and found some great information about Quickcrete. (Just to clarify, I am not being endorsed by this product in any way). Lots of people were talking about the ease of use, not having to figure out proper ratio measurements, just pour and set…simple! And the pros were commenting on the use of it for small jobs, and how it was much easier and just as strong as traditional concrete. Many were also commenting on the lifespan and that they had not had any problems with it. SOLD!

So off K and I went to the store to buy some bags. From everything we had read, we expected to use 1.5 – 2 bags per post. Looking at the bags, I felt that was a little excessive, so we split the difference and bought 13 bags. We have a lot more walls to do and know we will use any leftovers that we may have, and if we ran out it was easy to purchase more!

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Well apparently I was self prophesying in my last blog when I was saying “We are going to have our path done by the time the weather shifts…even if it breaks our back!”. We didn’t break our backs by any means, but poor K definitely did a little damage loading them into the garage when we got home. He was helping me not hurt myself by standing in the truck and passing me the 30kg bags. While doing so, he must have twisted funny and strained some back muscles as he has since been out of commission. Considering all the loads of large, heavy rocks; all the digging of paths; all the hauling of soil; all the contortions of the body to run irrigation; this injury should have probably happened sooner. It is unfortunate to have any injury, but hopefully he will heal quickly and be back out to hauling rocks with me in no time…in a safe and ergonomic manner! On the same day, I was smart enough to walk into a door I was opening and fractured my pinky toe. It has gone all sorts of pretty colours and was very tender to walk on for a few days.

So, we had a rest day. We chilled, relaxed and let our bodies heal. Then we were back at it….well K played supervisor as his back was still very stiff and I didn’t want him hurting it any further. We got to the mixing of the Quikcrete and pouring it into the post holes.

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Mixing, mixing, mixing….

Now from what I read online, a lot of DIY pages said you could pour some of the mix into the hole, add a little water, and so on. DON’T DO THIS! We didn’t feel comfortable doing that because we were concerned about how it would mix properly, and instead mixed it in a tub first. With the amount of time I had to spend mixing and fixing the water ratio, I am really happy that we did not try to mix it in the hole. I think it would have been a disaster.

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Like building a sand castle!

We got the quikrete to a beautiful oatmeal texture (I don’t think I will ever look at oatmeal the same again), and started filling our holes. The ones that were in the good soil and did not need the post mould were very easy to fill. K helped where he could by using a stick to poke out any air, while I filled and packed. Here is another lesson I learned, use rubber gloves and work gloves. I didn’t take any chances with testing how corrosive concrete can be on the skin, and instead went safety first. It gave me the opportunity to get my hands in there and really pack in the concrete and mould it around the poles to ensure water would run away from the pole. Again, going back to texture, we were able to hold a handful in our hands without it slipping or sliding.

IMG_3581Once finished packing, we left it to dry overnight. The bag said 2-4 hours to harden, but we plan on giving it time to really cure. It has now been 24 hours and for the most part it is looking good! IMG_3584There is one that is still darker in colour and I realized it is below one of our tomatoes and was likely getting water on it all evening. The concrete itself is rock solid, but it is not light in colour like the others. I have turned off our irrigation for the evening to let it cure without getting wet for 24 hours. We will see tomorrow how it is looking.

Tomorrow I will use some caulking meant for concrete footings on fences to seal the space where the concrete meets the wooden pole. This should stop water from seeping between the fence posts and the concrete creating problems. With our temperature range, there is the possibility of cracks forming from moisture freezing during our winter  months. I am hoping that the caulking stops any of those issues.

Although we ended up only needing 4 bags out of the 13, we will still use the other 9 on our other walls. Next steps will be to get the wire mesh fencing and start running it down the posts, taking a few drives up to cut blocks and collecting rocks, and filling our wall! We will have it done by the end of fall, and hopefully the lower wall that will retain our path as well. I just need to get K back to 100% and back to work!

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