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We have a large "debris wall," made up of stumps, tree trunks, and other leftovers from when our lot was cleared, to one side of our driveway. We considered having it removed, but it provides a privacy barrier between us and our neighbor. If we removed it, that would leave a wide open area.

You can see, in the photo, part of the edge of the driveway in the lower left and again in the upper left, as it goes over a rise going to the house. There isn't much room between the debris wall and the driveway. You can also see part of the house. We worked hard on the house design and on the yard near the house to create the feeling, when you drive up, that you're entering a story book setting.

It would be nice to find a way to hide, dress up, camouflage, or otherwise make this easier on the eyes. We considered ivy, but that can spread and get out of control easily (on both our side and our neighbor's side). If we plant trees or bushes, they'd have to go at least 20' high and block the view during the winter as well as the summer.

Last summer a lot of pokeweed grew up on part of the wall and, while it's a weed, it's not ugly and helps hide the debris. But during the winter, when it dies out, while it's still easier to look at than the debris, it doesn't seem to want to grow on the end you can see in the photo.

We'd like to hide it but make it look natural or at least interesting and not out of place with the mood we're creating for the house and yard. I wouldn't be opposed to building something, but that would be expensive and a lot of work if I just built some kind of wall along the 70' or so of this mess.


Edit: This debris wall is at least 15' tall, maybe 20' in some places, from 50-70' long and maybe 30' or more wide. It's also not fully stable. While everything seems to have settled, there is no way I'd climb on it to reach the top or so I can spread or shovel anything on it.

Debris wall of stumps, logs, and branches

  • Do you own a fireplace or wood burning stove? Perhaps clear that mess out and replace it with a nice stack of chopped wood. – binarymax Jan 29 '18 at 16:59
  • Interesting. Someone in my neighborhood with a house deeply offset from the street is making a long, serpentine driveway by making piles like these, then filling them in with what I suspect is sand, compost, and topsoil. Google StreetView is recent enough to see some of the process. They've spent about a year working on it off and on, and it's starting to look pretty good. – elrobis Jan 29 '18 at 18:05
  • @elrobis: Looks like they're trying to make a barrier between their home and the apartments across the street. – Tango Jan 30 '18 at 16:50
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Plant desirable native shrubs and vines that would grow over the irregular surface and transform it into an aesthetically pleasing feature. You might have to add soil to fill voids, and you could mix leaves into this soil for fill.

You could put up a barn owl box to entice one or a pair to live there and provide natural rat control. If you don't have barn owls where you are, then you probably have screech owls. We have had boxes for screech owls in our back yard for almost 40 years and they do some rat control, but not like a barn owl or barred owl would.

Have you had any suggestions that in the current condition your yard is not in compliance with residential code? We have a natural yard in a sea of manicured lots and we have gotten three citations for code violations over the past 10 years. The underlying criticism is that our lot (10,000 sq ft) is not neat and so surely must be in violation.

The code inspectors have so far ruled that our yard is in basic compliance under the xeriscape allowances in the city code, but they always find one or two technical violations or common violations that are mostly overlooked. Last time the only thing we had to do was trim trees in front to be above 14 ft from the street surface.

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    No problem with inspections. I've had a number of inspectors pass it without issue, including environmental and building inspectors. But, then again, from this pile to the road is at least 1,300 feet and about 1,100 of that is going straight back from the road. As long as I bush hog the front 4 acres regularly 9as in 3-4 times a year), the neighbors are just thrilled someone is keeping that area from turning into a mess. Other than that front "corridor" that's about 150' wide and about 1,100' deep, the lot is wooded, so pretty much nobody cares about appearance other than us. – Tango Jan 28 '18 at 20:47
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    @Tango, that pile will be a natural habitat for undesirable wildlife, like animals that will feast on your landscaping, snakes, etc. If you leave it in place, animal control, like Jim suggests, would be a good idea. The big stuff will take decades to biodegrade on its own. If it was my lot, I'd have the stuff hauled away and then plant some fast-growing trees there. If you want to turn it into a stable mound, start adding soil to fill and stabilize it. As it gets filled, it will become stable enough to work your way in to fill the middle. – fixer1234 Jan 28 '18 at 21:20
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The solution is simple - truckloads of manure.

Bury the mess in manure (horse is often easiest, but check your local sources) and the wood will rot down, while it will be easy to grow anything on top (pokeweed does have some downsides, such as the poisonous but attractive to children berries.) You'll have a brief period of some odor, but once the surface ages a bit there should be none. You basically convert this mess into a mound, and after a few years, you'll have an area of deep, rich soil; But you'll have the eyesore dealt with pretty much as soon as it's buried, and if you do it in winter you'll basically avoid the odor problem completely. Most sources of horse manure are relatively (.vs other manures) high in bedding (shavings or straw) content, and this also pushes it to the forefront of my suggested manures, as that more quickly makes an inoffensive surface layer.

If you (or your spouse or neighbors) have a huge issue with deploying that much organic animal byproduct, an alternative approach is a similarly huge pile of spoiled/mulch hay. You'll want 12-18" over the top of this mess at least, and you might need to renew it, as it will not pack in as well as manure does, so it may develop holes as it breaks down.

  • Yikes! Manure is smelly and you could get complaints from neighbors. Large amounts of manure would over-fertilize the soil and create polluted run-off. I personally would use good sandy loam and apply small amounts of chemical fertilizer only if needed for optimum nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium. – Jim Stewart Jan 28 '18 at 18:56
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    In the northern hemisphere, manure applied now will not be noticeably smelly for any significant period of time - and it provides much-needed nitrogen (as well as a moist environment) to help break down all that wood. You, obviously, have not actually worked with it much, based on what you say. I have worked with it quite a bit. – Ecnerwal Jan 28 '18 at 19:01
  • Interesting idea, but this would take many tons of manure. When I see a 20 ton load of dirt dumped for me to move it around, it's about 1/2 the height of this thing or less - then there's the issue of spreading it over an unstable structure. Any ideas on how to move it into place? I figure this is easily 15' high and about 70' long. – Tango Jan 28 '18 at 20:43
  • Low tech - haul it yourself, don't dump it, stand in the (pickup) truck (wear rubber boots) and throw from there. Generally weighs less than dirt, and you don't need a pile the size of the pile you have, you need a layer over the pile you have. Will take a while but it's cheap and good exercise, and you can throw quite a ways with a long-handled shovel and practice (which you'll soon get.) High-tech - get someone with a silage blower mounted on a tractor. That might limit you to using mulch hay (the machine should be fine throwing horse manure but the owner might not want to.) – Ecnerwal Jan 28 '18 at 22:21
  • If you don't mind putting the money into the material, landscape companies might have "bark blowers" for depositing bark mulch, but most of those don't seem to have the built-in height of throw that a silage blower gets you (they are more hose-dispensing oriented for mulching tidy beds.) A wood chipper might be yet another approach that will blow stuff up there, but then it would be best to have a supply of saplings/branches to be chipped, as they won't feed other materials well. "Straw blowers" appear to be another (possibly rentable) option. – Ecnerwal Jan 28 '18 at 22:25
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I have over 100 yards of horse manure and shavings behind my barn, I turn it 2-3 times a year and work in fresh regulary and it is the best organic compost you can find, we even load for free, if you want a trailer load delivered that cost because we have to pay wear and tear on our equipment. Any one that would suggest a chemical over composted shit& shavings is part of the water runoff contamination problem in my opinion. Once composted this will grow grass or just about anything, we usually deliver 50+ yards to a nursery every year no chemicals in this stuff and my garden & flower beds grow quite well with just this stuff. So I would agree with @Ecnerwal , it will provide a support system for plants on top and help to breakdown the debris underneath. I thought I should add this my grandfathers farm had wonderful soil we grew hay on 3/4 and grazed on the last 1/4 rotating fields every year and using a manure spreader before he died I remember talking how his fields were 4-6 inches higher than his neighbor and his hay had more bales per acre, he said it was because we recycled the cow manure where his neighbor used chemicals. Except for the few years we did alfalfa we did not need to water until the 3rd cutting where the neighbor had to regularly water (all this did take many years as my grandfather worked that land for almost 50 years same as the neighbor).

  • Do you mean square or cubic yards? For this pile of debris, I figure it'd take at least 50-80 tons just to cover the first 20-30 feet of it from one end - if manure is anywhere close to the density of dirt. I was surprised with my first 20 ton load of gravel and just how small the pile was for the size of a 20 ton dumptruck. – Tango Jan 29 '18 at 16:52
  • Cubic yards, it depends on the time of year on the weight. In late summer I can haul over 10 cubic yards with ease and not come close to my max on my dump trailer 15k lbs, but in the winter I max out on weight before 3/4 full. Green or not fully composted only weighs about 1/2 of fully composted, I forgot to mention composted smells like dirt not poop, green smells like poop, however horse poop is not as bad as many other kinds. – Ed Beal Jan 29 '18 at 17:18
  • Would you say it would be easy to find a place around me with a similar situation? My concern is about the sheer amount of material needed to do something like this. – Tango Jan 30 '18 at 15:22
  • Check out any facility that has horses we only have 10 inside stalls and a small indoor arena, most of our horses are show horses so we use a higher grade of shavings (finer and easier to pick the poop) this also helps it to break down the sawdust faster. Even if it is this years (fresh) it will help. We have a tractor and will load your truck or trailer for free some make you load it or charge a few bucks and we have friends that do the same. Also the fair grounds if they have horse shows all the shavings and poop usually is piled up until they have it taken away. – Ed Beal Jan 30 '18 at 18:26

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