The first task consisted in studying the land carefully: three planes at all different heights, a wall in the back. The highest piece of land had a small pond. The middle one was quite flat, framed by a small wall less than a foot high. The lowest piece of land extended until the driveway, and featured a huge cypress and a nice oleander. Plants that accept to grow on this yard without a constant supply of water deserve respect, I had to design a shape that made room for these two.
I removed a good layer of dirt, until the small walls were sticking out, with a rake, a shovel and a bucket. The aim was a smooth and flat surface. I removed all visible pebbles. I had to water the ground to make is soft enough, because there is a lot of clay in it; it becomes hard as concrete when dry, and soft as butter when wet. It also sticks to shoes…
Every bucket of soil was thrown elsewhere in the garden. Around my house, a lot of soil is lacking, because it was artificially brought there in the sixties and has been eaten up by trees.
As you can see on the pictures, I dug along the small walls, that are 10 centimeters wide. I poured concrete. I used 10cm concrete blocks on top, to double the width. I planted some irons, and then piled hollow 20cm concrete blocks, that I filled with concrete. I had never done anything like this before, it worked pretty well. At the end of the process, I had a straight wall, that never cracked or moved to this day.
Bags of concrete cost 8 euros a piece, irons cost about a euro, blocks cost 2 or 3 euros.
I have no idea how these hollow blocks are called in English. They are designed especially for swimming pools. Concrete is poured into the top, and gradually fills the whole structure. In my case, I poured small amounts at a time, but it worked well enough. Finally, I added yellow bricks for decoration on a small section, and left the rest open on top, to plant grass.