Woodland Shade Gardening

Woodland shade gardening with a purpose – pleasure, creativity, rainwater collection!

How to build a Clay Wall

From the suothBack in March of 2007 we had a nice sunny day with mild temperatures – the perfect recipe to get outdoors and shed some winteriness from my soul!  A landscaping project would be just the thing.

The area for planting daylilies was a blank canvas, meaning the soil needed to be dug out completely so amendments could be added and tilled into the remaining soil.  Little did we know this soil would be completely clay.  This also explains why we were unable to grow grass successfully – the topsoil was almost non-existent.

The effects of erosion were already obvious on a nearby slope, so we decided to use the clods of clay to construct a wall to prevent additional erosion on that slope.  No more concrete retaining wall stones would be used, because there was already one wall of this style, and more would be too much to be aesthetically pleasing.  The plan was to build the clay wall, backfill with chipped leaves, and let the evergreen vinca groundcover mass itself over this naturalized floor of the garden.  Bringing in more soil, without first building an erosion-control wall, would only have resulted in the new soil washing away.

The task was not easy, and quite a few changes have been made in the years since this project was completed, but that little clay wall has held well, catching rainwater, eliminating erosion behind it, hiding under a cover of leaves and becoming a good home for the vinca.

In 2014, another wall was added downhill from this clay wall, due to erosion happening on the remaining slope in front of the clay wall.  Yes, the newer wall is concrete retaining wall stones, salvaged from the wall near the street – to lower it a bit and make it less conspicuous.  These concrete stones are aged and will soon be covered by vinca planted against the back side of them a few weeks ago.

Use of clay clods for building gabions is a habit I embrace.  Short berms to divert rainwater, and crescent-shaped berms on the low side of individual shrub plantings on a slope – to catch and hold rainwater, are also good uses for clay clods.  Removal of these clods, and using them in another location, makes room for amendments such as soil enhancer, manure, and chipped leaves to be tilled in with some original soil for new individual plants and new planting areas.

From the north 2007

Clay wall viewed from the north, in 2007.

From  the north - blog

New wall, downhill from original clay wall, viewed from the north, in early spring 2015.

From the south -  blog

New wall viewed from the south, in early spring 2015

In the beginning

In the beginning, digging the outer edge.

By the fence

Moving along…

Plenty of wall-building material!

Plenty of wall-building material.

Well tilled soil ready for daylily planting

Well tilled and ready for planting daylilies.


New wall closes gap between the two bedding areas and allows ‘harvesting’ of rainwater flowing downhill from neighbor’s rain gutter downspout.

Loose dirt

One more look from 2007.

Looking northeast

Sunlight and shade, along what we now call The Fern Walk. We have already planted a collection of starter-size ferns, along with some companion plants including starter-size evergreen shrubs and perennials.


A view of the original daylily bed area against the fence at the end of The Fern Walk.

One comment on “How to build a Clay Wall

  1. casjack1
    June 25, 2015

    I can really understand why weeding is such a pleasure to you now. The bones of this garden was a lot of planning and work! My hat goes off to you guys!

    Liked by 1 person

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This entry was posted on June 25, 2015 by in My Woodland Garden and tagged , , .
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Woodland shade gardening with a purpose - pleasure, creativity, rainwater collection!



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