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Dirt box?

541 Views 5 Replies 4 Participants Last post by  mtmanrob
The descriptive terms of what I'd like to build doesn't lend well to a great Google search, so I'm turning to forums to learn if others have built something similar.

My two boys are growing and wanting to play outside in the dirt more and more. Growing up, I had a sandbox where all the neighborhood cats pooped in because we didn't have a cover. On top of that, it was sand so you couldn't really "play real life" as the trucks would sink in the sand as you pushed them across it.

So, I'm wanting to build something exactly like a 10'x10' sandbox with a folding cover-into-bench-seats, except with dirt. Just a couple of questions before I get to building...

1. Do you think I need to put in some type of insulating barrier? Lawn fabric? Canvas tarp? I want to keep the weeds from growing up and the bugs from coming in underneath.
2. Screened topsoil or loam? I can see the benefits of both, but leaning towards the topsoil as it might not get packed and hard to break up.
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@mtmanrob, welcome!


My baby brother and me played in the dirt, and it was just the dirt, and I'm not sure why you want to bother with the box. Maybe cordon off part of the backyard?

Also, tell us where you are (city/state is fine). That will have a bearing on things, too, I think.
Off topic, but have you considered a raised garden bed so the boys can learn just a bit about gardening? They could haul dirt with their trucks and turn weeds under with a gardening trowel pretending it was a plow. All that's needed under it would be 1/2" Hardware Cloth to repel Gophers, if those are a problem.
Sorry, in Indianapolis.

The reason why I want to cordon it off is because I plan on using anywhere from 12' to 18' of dirt, and the box is to keep it contained. Additionally, I would want to be able to cover it to keep the neighborhood pets out of it.
Aye played it the dirt as a boy. I found the best dirt under the trees with an occasional trip to the clay section for road building ramps for my trucks.

So something reasonably workable for small hands but not too silty. Here that would be a nice loamy screened topsoil (Maury silt loam) but not what you buy in bags at HD.

Since I don't know dirt anywhere but in KY I will say, after a moderate rain your dirt should crust and settle but should be workable with the small shovels and such that the kids might have. If I were going to the garden center here I would buy what they call screened topsoil and add a little sand to loosen it because what they all sell is a somewhat clayey soil that they grind. Used in a yard it turns back into a light clay as it settles and gets wet.

My son had a 6x6' fort section of the yard to dig in that I created at the corner of the house side yard where our fenced area offered a natural opportunity to add 6' of fence with a fence door. Our 1923 yard had some decent dirt so he played with what was there.

I suspect anything you put between it and the ground is doomed to failure but lawn fabric is the better choice.
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I just realized that if I'm putting 12" to 18" of dirt in this box, I don't really need the landscape fabric as most weeds and grass don't have roots that deep. However, I didn't realize about the groundhogs (we have ground squirrels), so I'll put down some hardware cloth.

Thanks for the replies so far!
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