The soil has arrived

This post continues the coverage of our front yard desert garden project.

After the pittosporum hedge was removed the 6x48 ft, planting strip outside the fence was ready for the next step: arrival of the soil. I wanted the area to be raised by a foot to ensure good drainage in the winter—not that this dreadfully dry winter posed much of a challenge in that respect. Based on my calculations, I ordered a total of 10 cubic yards of soil. I chose a mixture of screened topsoil, amended garden soil, and coarse paver sand (5 : 3 : 2 cubic yards). Since this strip bakes in the sun pretty much all day, I didn’t want to the soil to dry out too quickly so I opted for a somewhat richer mix (the screened top soil has clay in it). The goal was to find a good balance between drainage and water retention: If the mix dries out too quickly, the plants won’t thrive, but if it’s too heavy, they might rot in the winter. I’m fairly confident I’ve got the balance right, but time will tell.

While I was hoping to have some extra soil to transfer to the back yard for other projects, I was still surprised by much 10 cubic yards are! The truck driver did a good job depositing most of the soil on the planting strip, but a fair amount ended up on the sidewalk.


10 cubic yards of soil


It looks even scarier from this angle…


…and this


Gray = paver sand, tan = screened topsoil, darker brown = amended garden soil

The first order of business was shoveling the soil off the sidewalk as quickly as possible to avoid complaints from the neighbors. We hauled countless wagon and wheelbarrow loads to the back yard and other areas of the front yard. Several hours later the sidewalk was reasonably clear.


Sidewalk almost clear


Since then, we’ve been hauling more dirt to other parts of our property, and the sidewalk is now completely clear.

The next step is contouring the berm, compressing the soil and flattening out the top so it doesn’t look like a miniature mountain range. Then I’ll install the drip line, and planting can begin. Things should look much different the next time I post an update!


  1. You must have felt achy the next day after all that shifting but it's oh so worth it!

    1. Actually, it wasn't as bad as I had expected. Which surprised me!

  2. You could have had a third of it dumped in the driveway! Still a lot of dirt!

    1. Believe me, that thought ran through my head more than once as I was pushing yet another wheelbarrow full of dirt into the backyard.

  3. Reminds me of the time we came home to find our load of gravel 80% in the street and only 20% in the driveway. Many many many wheelbarrow loads later it was all in the front garden and we could finally go to sleep (oh and a neighbor got high centered on the pile when she tried to drive through it...). A question: how will you keep the new soil away from the bottom of your fence?

    1. Gravel is the worst because it's so heavy. Compared to that, our soil is a piece of cake.

      As for keeping the soil away from the fence: I'm trying. I was thinking of devising some sort of barrier but gave up--I'm just not to tinkering type. I'll just be careful. Once the soil settles and the plants grow in, it shouldn't be a problem.

  4. I'd much rather have 10 yards of mulch to move than 10 yards of soil, but at least your yard is flat. I don't know about you, but I always feel really fulfilled after a hard day's work in the garden: physically exhausted but emotionally energized!

  5. Wow that is quite a job! I hope you and your wife have a good back!


Post a Comment