The Three Little Pigs got it right!

Story and Photography by Susan Jasan

We enjoy what we see in our home and garden, but what you don’t see is critical to the long-term enjoyment of your landscape and your gardens. 

Just as the classic children’s tale The Three Little Pigs teaches us, it’s important to build on a firm foundation and use proper materials lest the big bad wolf “huff and puff and blow your house in.” This wisdom also applies to outdoor projects such as decks, kitchens, and yes, even the garden. 

Pavers and segmented retaining walls require specific installation techniques to insure long-term integrity.
Remember that if you are planning a structure in a later phase, be sure to plan ahead for the proper footing to support the structure.

When planning your dream outdoor space, whether garden expansion or hardscape installation, resist the temptation to skimp on the materials and/or construction of the base: the unseen foundation of your project. Proper practices are the keys to the long-term integrity of any project. Just as the native soil has a significant impact on your garden plants, it can also have a significant impact on your hardscape installation. 

Segmented retaining walls (SRWs) made from concrete modular units (CMUs) have many great applications.

What you’re building and its function will determine the base required for your new hardscape. 

Though it is tempting to provide some simple guidelines, the reality is that there are no “standards” that apply in all situations. Simply, your soil type may support only 1,000 pounds per square foot or 100,000 pounds per square foot. In addition, each soil type has different physical characteristics, construction qualities, or horticultural properties as well as drainage characteristics, each significantly impacting any use. In many cases, ground preparation may require removal of existing soil prior to addition of any base materials.

Base material, depth, compaction are all-important components in any project.

Remember too that not all types of rock, gravel, clay, or sand are the same. For example there is gravel that is “free draining” with no small particles, but there is also gravel that has lots of “fines” or tiny particles mixed in. Using the wrong type for drainage for a foundation can have a catastrophic effect on the long-term integrity of any project.

Left to right: SB2 gravel with “fines”, coarse sand, and washed, free-draining gravel.

As you move forward on a new hardscape project, if you’re not sure how to proceed, refer to the manufacturer’s specifications or the best practices of the industry. Also consider contacting a design professional qualified for the scope of your project whether it is a landscape designer, landscape architect, civil engineer, or an architect.

This outdoor kitchen may be inviting, what makes it a true success is the proper base materials, foundation and footings. Supporting the stone and granite cabinets is equally important. What you don’t see is critical!

Be aware of the key components of your desired hardscape. If you are a do-it-yourselfer, do your homework. If you hire a professional, be sure they utilize the best practices, lest time and nature “huff & puff and blow your hardscape down.”

Scroll to Top