Landscaping a sloped backyard creates a unique challenge. Some of the many considerations include creating a functional slope, drainage, soil retention and blending the addition to your overall landscape design. Owners of sloped lots have plenty of options that require careful thought and planning before going through with the landscape design. Your optimum goal involves using the sloped space to the best advantage while still allowing room for decorative features such as gardens, decks and patios.
Drainage of the slope tops the list of concerns. Water should always flow away from the house to prevent damage to the home's foundation. Slopes present an additional challenge for plants and grass. Steep grades can be difficult to mow safely. In general, the higher levels of the slope tend to have dry soil. Lower levels of the slope might have pooling of water. Tailoring your plant choices to this situation will save both time and money.
Address any drainage problems first with the sound advice of an engineer. Adding any hardscape features such as terraces or retaining walls after a complete consultation will prevent future maintenance problems. In addition, ask the engineer for recommendations for creating usable space in the backyard. Rain runoff will be your primary concern when considering choices of mulch, plants and soil retention features.
Smaller lots with grades extending up from the house provide the perfect space for creating waterfalls, rock gardens and terraces. Adding a water feature puts emphasis on this unique landscape element, allowing the gardener to decorate around this dramatic feature. Slopes allow for easy design of a water feature because no grading is required. Incorporating terraces or retaining walls creates viable planting space along the slope to complement the waterfall.
Retaining walls and terraces present a handy landscape feature to create accessible space for planting. Terraces look like wide steps advancing up a slope. If your lot slopes away from your house, build retaining walls to allow for plants or level the property slightly to make this useless space the home for a beautiful perennial garden. Retaining walls are single-wall additions placed to raise painting beds or create a planting area on a hill. Stone choices include brick, paving stones, rock, slate and cement. Choose stones that complement the exterior colors and design of your home.
Drainage and sun tolerance plays a large role in your plant choices for landscaping a sloped backyard. Creating a rock garden with moderately sized rocks can help frame your plants and stabilize the slope at the same time. Low ground cover plants such as phlox will bloom once a year, adding splashes of color to the hillside. Foliage plants such as ornamental grasses or ivy provide low-growth ground cover to help retain soil as well. Use a few larger anchor shrubs to tie your sloped garden with the remainder of your yard. Plants and shrubs should have deep roots to encourage healthy growth on a slope.
The very nature of a sloping backyard just lends itself to a wildflower garden filled with an abundance of plants. Wildflower garden planting kits are available at the garden center with complete instructions for planting. Include strong perennials such as ornamental grasses, hostas and ferns to provide a beautiful green backdrop for your flowers. Remember to evaluate the amount of sun and tailor your purchases accordingly.
S.F. Heron is an avid gardener with over three years of experience in online writing and a working background in aviation and earth and ocean sciences. She is published on various websites and holds a Bachelor of Science degree in journalism from the University of Maryland.