landscaping on a slope

Your Three Options for Landscaping on a Slope

Landscaping on a slope provides some interesting challenges for those of us with them. In my case, I mow a very steep slope by only going down on the steep part and by coming back up on a more gentle part (it’s too steep to mow across the hill).

But many of you don’t have that option so here are a few thoughts on hiilside landscaping.

Your Options If It’s Too Steep To Mow

Terrace It.

Creating terraces is a relatively simple thing to do. You lay down a landscaping timber (I’ve used railroad ties) across the hill – level it by digging out the hill where it sits. Then excavate uphill putting the excavated soil against the timber until the ground in that section is level from the top of the timber towards the upward slope of the hill.

How wide this terrace is will depend on the steepness of the slope and how high you build your terrace wall. Very steep slopes get very narrow terraces unless you use several levels of timbers. More gently sloping hillsides get a wider terrace.
But this is a project that anybody can do on weekends with a bit of determination, a strong back, wheelbarrow or moving-dolly to move terrace-building materials and a sharp shovel.

More upscale looks can be created by using landscaping blocks, landscaping bricks, or even large rocks.

Once the hillside ground has been levelled, it can be grassed or gardens can be created there. It becomes useable space.

Ground Cover It

Depending on the nature of the area, you can try to plant groundcovers. This will work depending on the nature of the site and the groundcover you pick but you can landscape on a slope quite nicely once the groundcovers are established.

If this is a wild area and you don’t want to see it, you only want to hold the bank-soil in place, then you can set in some of the more aggressive spreading plants.

Plants such as Crown Vetch will fill in within a few years to hold the bank. Others such as Vinca are a bit slower but will also do the job. The advantage of these aggressive spreaders is that they will compete against the inevitable weeds to good advantage. The disadvantage is that they are aggressive and will escape into surrounding gardens or cultivated areas.

If this is an area you’re going to want to see regularly, then you have to establish the ground cover and at the same time (for several years) weed out invaders. It will also take a yearly weeding to remove unwanted plants from this planting. It will not be a plant and forget kind of area.

Garden On It

This is an option that many folks don’t take up. You can garden or landscape on a slope without having to do a lot of other things if you decide to pick and plant your plants carefully.

  • For example, shrubs and evergreens can spread and fill into to stop weeds and prevent erosion without any serious work. A large shrub border fills in and is an extremely attractive option (it’s one I’m considering for my slope).
  • You could establish wildflower areas composed of native plants such as Echinacea and native grasses. This kind of garden demands some attention to combat noxious weeds such as thistles but can become a very attractive garden in a few years.
  • You could fill it with plants that resemble grass such as Iris and Daylily so when the grasses do invade, these plants can fight them off and hide them.
  • Or you could plant it to ornamental grasses and once they’d spread, not much else would bother them. **But be warned** – they spread and there are few things worse than trying to eradicated or control some of those big spreading grasses. Choose carefully on these and go for the clumping ones and not the spreading one. You can plant and then dig/divide almost every spring to quite quickly fill a bank.

Those are your options.

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