Footings for retaining wall

Will’s work on the barn and retaining wall has turned out to be so beautiful. We are wanting to build a retaining wall also about 18-24 inches high. How deep did you all put in the footers before starting the rock work?

Nana from Texas

Our footings are 8 inches deep with plenty of rebar and wire, and are twice as wide as the wall is thick — 12 inches wide as our walls are 6 inches wide. In the barn, our walls are 8 inches wide so the footings are 8 inches deep and 16 inches wide. When building a retaining wall, you should lean the wall into the bank ⅛ inch per foot, bare minimum. If your soil is not sand and gravel, you should install drain holes along the bottom so that any moisture doesn’t get trapped behind the wall, eventually cracking it. Our soil is 100% rock, sand, and gravel so this isn’t a concern, especially beneath the house. — Jackie

Eating collard flowerettes

I read with interest your reply to the reader asking if broccoli leaves can be used like kale or collards and you affirmed that indeed they can be. I also want to tell you the opposite can be true. Down here in the lower South I let my collard plants overwinter and they normally do quite nicely, but the time comes, especially when sitting in the garden for almost a year that they go to seed. What I noticed was that the flower stalks look remarkably like broccoli or broccoli rabe so I cooked some up as broccoli spears and were they ever good! In fact, they had a delightful taste and texture almost like asparagus and broccoli together. I continued to pick the spears as they appeared and got a harvest of about 3-4 weeks from them, for multiple pounds long before the spring-planted broccoli was ready. The spears grow faster and longer than broccoli spears and because of that fast growth were exceptionally tender. My next project is overwintered kale flower stalks!

Dave Franklyn
Tallassee, Alabama

Thanks for the information, Dave! What a creative bunch homesteaders are. I know I find myself continually experimenting with this and that to see just what would happen if… I know a whole lot of folks will be eating collard flowerettes in the future! — Jackie


  1. I wondered if the lady asking about about the footings was wondering about how deep her footings should be, rather than the dimensions of the footing itself.
    Footings for any project should have the top of the footer below the frost line.
    In TX this might not be much of a problem, but here all footers need to be poured 3′ below the surface. That depth will vary depending on how cold your climate is and the composition of the substrate…rocky soils and gravel don’t require a footing to be buried as deeply.
    Best advice-check your local building codes, as they are drafted with safety in mind. While sometimes they may seem over-the-top, it just might save someone from having to repeat all their hard work much too soon.

  2. You can get some information about unusual edibles from Stephen Barstow’s Around the World in 80 Plants and Eric Toensmeier’s Perennial Vegetables. Eric is part owner of Food Forest Farm.
    Both Stephen and Eric make the point that some things are edible or not depending on whether they are cooked or raw and whether they have flowered or set seed. A lot of people must have had some interesting outcomes for all that information to be available.
    As Ellendra cautioned, be very careful about eating plant parts until you check several reliable sources and check whether you should cook them or not. The other caution is to eat just a small amount the first few times until you learn whether you can tolerate the food. Unusual edibles are like anything you put in your body – you won’t know for a while if it agrees with you. Anyone can have an allergic reaction.

  3. Barb: Tomato leaves are poisonous, as are the leaves of other nightshades like peppers and eggplant.

    I have no idea about bean leaves, it might depend on the bean.

  4. Oh, cabbage cores are delicious! They taste a lot like radishes, and are so crunchy. I love them, and either snack on them, or slice them thin and cook with the cabbage.

  5. Thank you, Dave – that is great information. I have read that a lot of what is usually considered garden waste is actually edible and nutritious. I’ve eaten broccoli leaves for years. I’ve read that bean leaves and tomato leaves are edible, but haven’t tried them yet. I hadn’t read your information before. Brilliant!

  6. I like to cook the bottom leaves of the Brussels Sprouts as they grow.. Cut out the middle stem and either boil them or steamed . They are a great green for side dish.

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