levelling - dig down or add up?

Hi I live on a slope and after my two patio slab depth patio area my garden slopes down from the right to the left quite considerably. It means there is not much garden for the children to play in.
I therefore want to level it out. Question is, do I:
1 - build up the left to bring the whole garden level and turn my 6ft fence in to a 3 ft fence as a result.
2 - dig down the right to level it with the left and create a step down from the patio to the garden. This keeps the 6ft fence and therefore the privicy.
Not sure if it matters but eventually I'll be making the patio much bigger.
Thanks
--
mphowells


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On 6/27/2009 3:54 PM, mphowells wrote:

I would do both. Cut down on the right and use the "spoil" (the dirt that is dug out) to fill in on the left. This means less cutting and less filling. This is how tracts of homes are graded. There will be a boundary separating the cut and fill; this is known as the daylight line.
Till on the right enough to prepare the soil for planting. Till on the left at least a foot or more into the existing soil to blend the fill with the old soil.
You might want to plant some deep-rooting shrubs or some trees on the left to stabilize what you have done.
You might want to check with your local city or county to make sure that what you are doing is legal. Where I live, if the cut or fill are noticeable, a grading permit is required. Before the county will issue a permit, they require a geologist and a geotechnical engineer to prepare a soils report and grading plan. Then a civil engineer must do grading drawings and complete a storm-water runoff mitigation report and a erosion control report. (Those two reports are required by federal law.) The county's permit fee might run $5,000 or more to cover the costs of having county engineers review all reports and plans and then inspect the work; I think the minimum fee is $1,000. (All this is from personal experience of having a failed slope repaired. See my <http://www.rossde.com/garden/garden_back.html#hill .)
Of course, your own local authorities might not require a grading permit at all for minor leveling of a garden. However, be careful that you do not wind up directing runoff onto neighboring properties.
--
David E. Ross
Climate: California Mediterranean
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David E. Ross wrote:

That is exactly what I've been doing, didn't know the terms! I've terraced my garden and a friends who has a much steeper slope.
A few hints.
Get a good mattock and loosen the soil with that, rather than a shovel.
You may find that when you dig down that the soil quality deteriorates. You may wish to do some dirt sorting.
I'm going to reread David's post to pick up some new ideas!
Jeff

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On 6/29/2009 9:24 AM, jeff wrote:

Sorting surface and subsurface soils might not be necessary. An old gardening practice is to double- or triple-spit the soil. "Spitting" is digging to a depth equal to the length of tines on a spading fork (which is definitely NOT a pitch fork or hay fork) or the length of the blade of a spade.
To improve the soil, you spit a trench, piling the soil on the side away from where you plan to dig the next trench. Then, you spit the same trench an addition depth, piling the soil next to the first pile. A third spitting would be nice but not always necessary, depending on the soil.
Next, you spit a new trench not only parallel to the first one but actually in a way that merely widens the first one. The new trench is one spit deep with the surface soil piled on the bottom of the first trench. Then soil from the second spitting of the new trench goes into the first trench on top of the soil from the first spitting of the new trench. If you triple-spit, the bottom third from the new trench becomes the top layer of the first trench.
Now you start another trench, filling in the second trench. Etc, etc, etc. When you finally spit the last trench, the piled up soil from the very first trench -- in the proper order -- fills it. Soil amendments can be added while spitting. Phosphorus can be placed at the bottom where roots will find it, but other nutrients should be withheld until after plants are established.
This can indeed move the better soil down and inferior soil to the surface. The better soil might even be beyond the reach of the roots of annuals and some shallow-rooted perennials and shrubs. However, the tilth is very much improved. If spitting is done correctly, it might not have to be repeated for many years. (Of course, if shrubs are planted, it will never be redone.)
Similar results today can be obtained with the use of a power rototiller. You till a single width of the machine for the length of the bed. You shovel the loose soil to one side. Till the same area again and again shovel the loose soil beyond the first row that was shoveled. Adjacent to the first area, till and use the result to fill the first area; till again and complete the filling of the first area. Etc, etc. Amendments can be applied before each tilling; the rototiller will mix them into the soil quite well.
To level a gradual slope, use a rototiller to triple-spit the high side and double-spit the rest. Just move some of the tilled soil from the high side to the low. If the slope is more than merely gradual, a grading permit might indeed be appropriate.
--
David E. Ross
Climate: California Mediterranean
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mphowells wrote:

You could do either or both. First I would find out what the soil profile is like in the area concerned. If there is rock or plastic clay not far down it is going to limit your options. If you are going to cut and fill what sort of material will this bring to the surface? You want grass for kiddies to play on. When you have finished will grass grow where you want it to?
Second before lifting a shovel plan it out, measure the area, take levels and compute the amount of cut or fill required and the amount of soil to be moved, it may be more than you think. Further plan the drainage and utilities. Where does ground water and roof water flow now? How will your work change that? You don't want to build a dam or hit a spring!
Are there any pipes or services under the area? When the house was built where was the rubbish heap, are you sure it isn't still there buried?
If you are going to bring in equipment how will it get in? If you are going to do it by hand how long will it take? Do you need permission from local government?
If you have no idea how to answer any of these questions then pay somebody who does.
David
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If I understand you correctly, you have at least one patio slab immediately adjacent to a "garden". Digging out this area immediately adjacent to the patio slab may undermine that slab.
--
Dave



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Dioclese;853538 Wrote: > "mphowells" snipped-for-privacy@gardenbanter.co.uk wrote in message

> down

> the

> immediately

> the

The idea was to have a bank with a step in it down from the patio.
I intend on building a retaining wall with sleepers whether I go option 1 or 2. If option 1 then the wall will be on the left of the picture, if option 2 then on the right.
I'm aware it's a fair bit of work but I want a flat garden and I'm just looking for support that I'm not completely crazy and living in the clouds. I always see people build their garden up rather than dig it down, is it just because of the manual work involved - which I actually quite enjoy on a hot summers day as replacement for training!
--
mphowells


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mphowells;853645 Wrote: > The idea was to have a bank with a step in it down from the patio.

> 1 or 2. If option 1 then the wall will be on the left of the picture, if > option 2 then on the right.

> looking for support that I'm not completely crazy and living in the > clouds. I always see people build their garden up rather than dig it > down, is it just because of the manual work involved - which I actually > quite enjoy on a hot summers day as replacement for training!
after your comments and standing in my back garden I think maybe going with building the garden up on the left and slightly skimming of the 'hiils' on the right is the way forward. It truely is a huge amount of work digging down that far to match the left!
hopefully I can still get away with one retaining wall on the left and not too much loss of pivacy!!!
--
mphowells


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mphowells wrote:

Or just terrace it. I find this to be far more visually interesting and you have many advantages with drainage, keeping your fence line, and not having to dig so deep. I would think 6 1' steps.
That will work with Davids splitting suggestion.
I really like the terraced work I've done or seen. So much that large flat gardens seem, well, dull. Really dull.
jeff

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jeff wrote:

You may wish to use a width equal to a good working distance. You can put small walks in at the terrace edges, that will support the terrace edges and give you a place you can stand in and reach into your garden.
My own garden is terraced with bricks (from a demolished house), we terraced a friend of mines with cement blocks, (solid surface up). That solved a problem of how to get rid of the cursed blocks and it looks fabulous, which is rather unbelievable considering the start point! We used to call it the "bust ass hill".
Put a few curves/angles in to give a more natural look.
Jeff

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