Where to start ?

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

This is my place.
My Place

My PlaceAs you can see, I have plenty of land to use for a garden.
The big issue is where?
Do I want it close to the house (way off in the picture)
Or somewhere on the 6.5 acres.
There is a bayou completely surrounding the property with only a small driveway connected to the real world.

After several days of considering the spot I think I will put it near the house and use IBC containers as fish tanks and reservoir tanks.  These will give me about 250 gallons of water in each tank.  With a bayou completely surrounding the property, water is not in short supply but this will be a closed system and will not make use of that water.  With more and more pollution in this world, I think filtered water from the well will be the best option.

I will put the tanks on the right side of the house with two 250 gallon fish tanks near the house and two 250 gallon reservior tanks near the bayou and about 24″ lower. (the land near the water is lower than the land near the house).  This will work out well to allow natural gravity flow from the fish tank back to the reservior tanks.  These reservior or sump tanks will hold the water pump that will pump water through the system.  I will be using a single pump and let most of the water flow be a natural gravity flow from the grow beds to the fish tanks and back to the sump/pump tank.

This is the area I have sellected for the sump tanks.  I will be pouring a concrete slab in this area for the tanks.

Proposed site for Sump Tank

Proposed site for Sump Tank

The other two tanks will be about 40 feet away (directly behind me) sitting under my raised deck.  I have a deck around most of my raised home.  The home sits on piling about 10′ above the land. The building code in this area required I build up about 3′ above the land and I decided to go up 10′ so I could use the space under the house for a patio, carport, etc.

This was a good decision.  I live southern Louisiana. in 2005 Hurricane Katrina paid us a visit.  The eye actually crossed over my property.  The water from the gulf reached a height of 8 1/2′ onto my land.  If my house had not been built up 10′ we would have lost everything in that storm.  But we were back at home two days after the storm with only my workshop and garage damaged.  A lot of the trees and neighbors did not fare as well.

The area I have choosen for the tanks has a lot of root and over growth and it will take a bit of sweat to remove them and prepare the area for the concrete.

I don’t know if many of you have tried this but I am going to dry-pour the concrete.  I’ve found for simple jobs such as this, the process is simple and a lot less labor intensive than doing a wet pour of the concrete or getting a concrete truck to deliver a small amount of concrete to a remote area.

With the ground prepared and the forms in place we are ready to begin.  Here is the picture of the forms ready for the concrete.

Sump Forms

Sump Forms

The first thing to do is to figure out the amount of concrete sacks needed.  I will be using 80# bags from the local building supply and a 4″ slab 4′ X 8′.
I have calculated that I will need 18 bags of concrete.
If you don’t know how to figure it, go here:

I will purchase 20 bags since I will be pouring a second slab and the extra may be needed if something goes wrong.

With the forms set and the ground level, I will put the first layer of concrete in by dropping the bags into the forms.

Once the bags are in place, I take a shovel and break the end of the bags with the point and pour them dry into the forms.  You can see the first two opened in the forms.


After all of the bag have been opened use a garden rake to level it out.  Notice the concrete is only half way up the forms.20120723_185547

Next I will add some metal to the forms.  Normally I would use 4X4 mesh but this is an informal job so I will just use some old hardware cloth (heavy screen) I have laying around the house.  It will do and I won’t have to buy mesh for this job. You can see the screen on top of the concrete in the forms.


The second picture is the roll of the hardware cloth.

Hardware Cloth

Hardware Cloth

With the hardware cloth in place, I will add the remainder of the dry concrete.  Once all of the concrete is in place, you can level it again with the rake and a leveling board. The leveling board is simply a 2X4 that will span across the entire form from side to side.  You will want to pull it across the form wiggling it side to side as you pull it.  If the concrete is slightly above the forms, it will pull the concrete level and make a nice level surface for the tanks to sit upon.  If you can’t visualize what I am saying, (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nXhkvV3LJ0Q) about 2:50 into the video shows the process.  This video is about wet pour so the other steps are a lot harder than the way I did it.

MAKE SURE IT IS LEVEL.  After you have it level. Water the concrete by putting a sprinkler on it for several hours.  It is important to only ‘mist’ the dry concrete at first so it does not run or puddle up.  I watered my slab for about 4 hours before I turned it off and went to bed.

After the concrete has gotten wet you can use a hand trowel to smooth the concrete but it really is not necessary unless you require a very smooth surface.  The finish surface of this type of slab will have some exposed rocks but I’m sure the fish will not mind so neither do I.

This is a picture of the misting of the concrete.  I chose to mist the concrete between the first layer and the second but it is not necessary.

Watering the concrete

Watering the concrete

Now that this slab is being misted and I’m tired, I will call it a day and pour the next slab tomorrow if the weather cooperates.


The next morning, the slab was hard enough to walk on.  I wet it several times in the next few days.  A light wetting for several days is needed to cure the slab.

If you have any questions or comments, let me hear from you.

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