A highly sloped yard poses a few challenges: Steep hills can make walking difficult, runoff water can flow right past your plantings and visually, your garden may look just plain lopsided. Retaining walls help to shift around the soil in your yard, created stepped effects. They also make it easy to divide up space into well-defined areas, perfect for adding structure to larger yards.
Select Materials Creatively
If you need a retaining wall for practical purposes, like providing your plants with sufficient irrigation, you can still use the wall to add visual interest and style to your overall landscaping. Choose a material that complements the rest of your yard. For example, if you have a lush, naturalistic look, opt for rough stones, stacked in irregular patterns. For a more formal garden, get a tidier look from neat cement blocks or timber.
Create Drama with Varied Heights
When designing a landscape, use varied heights and sizes to draw the eye around your yard. One way of achieving this variation is with different types of plants. For example, you wouldn't fill a garden strictly with low-growing shrubs; you also need to mix in a few taller shrubs or grasses and a couple trees as visual anchors. You can also use the ground itself to create variation. Use multiple retaining walls for a cascade effect, preserving higher ground in certain areas and lower points elsewhere. Plan your plantings accordingly, clustering together species that go well together at each level. When in doubt, opt for sets of three and select foliage that's varied in texture and color.
Simplify the Task
If you're building a retaining wall yourself, opt for materials that minimize the task without sacrificing the aesthetics. For example, you can use interlocking concrete blocks to quickly stack up your fence, without fussing with any mortar. As an added benefit, it's far easier to dismantle the wall should you ever want a change. Only use interlocking systems when building relatively low terrace-style walls; taller walls require mortar or rebar for support. Using multiple short walls instead of one large one can also simplify your job, especially when it comes to moving around the soil; a larger wall requires much more digging and much more support to keep everything in place.
Reuse and Recycle
If your property is already rocky, take advantage of the local abundance and use the rocks to build your retaining wall. The natural look offers rustic beauty. If building a stone wall is too ambitious a project, use the money you saved on materials on a professional. You can also find recycled materials at local lumberyards, recycling centers and even demolition sites.