How to Design a Sloping Garden

Sloping gardens are considerably more difficult to design than level ones. There are several practical problems that have to be appreciated before a successful design can be produced. This is why homeowners with sloping yards prefer to hire a landscaping company to design and build their gardens. 

Many garden features need level or almost level ground, e.g. patios, sheds, greenhouses, seats, pergolas, ponds, swimming pools, tennis courts, children’s play equipment and so on. There are three main ways of creating level terraces in sloping ground: filling in; cutting out; or a bit of both, referred to as ‘cut and fill’. None of these should be carried out without considering their consequ­ences. For example, in a long narrow sloping garden with similar gardens on either side, if an area of the slope is cut out to form a terrace, there will have to be some arrangement to prevent neighbouring land and fences from falling in. Likewise, if a terrace is formed by building up extra soil, neighbouring land and fences will need protecting from this fill. This second situation can also produce privacy problems. With the level of the garden built up, the effective height of adjacent fences is likely to be reduced so that anyone standing on the new terrace might be able to see into the neighbouring property and, of course, be seen.

Sloping Garden

Walls and banks are obviously the most useful way of supporting these terraced areas. Predicting the size of terraces, extent of banks, height of walls and number of steps can be done on a sectional drawing. The garden slope has to be measured, either with a ‘straight edge’ and spirit level, or with surveying equipment. The measure­ments are drawn to scale on a piece of graph paper, resulting in an accurate drawing of the slope. This can then be cut and filled by trial and error until an ideal solution has been reached. Finally, it can be decided which areas will need walls, banks, steps and so, on and these can be drawn in and measured to scale. For more landscaping ideas just visit the last link.

A combination of cutting and filling can, if done cunningly, mean that no soil has to be imported or taken away but there is a catch. If, for example, the topsoil is very thin and there is rock or subsoil clay beneath, then cutting may well penetrate this layer and leave a large area of rock or subsoil exposed. If this terrace is to become a lawn, then those areas formed from subsoil will yield very poor results. Topsoil is valuable and where this is very thin it should be stripped off and stored in a position where levels will not be changing during the cut and fill operation. Afterwards it can be spread back over the subsoil where it will support a lawn or other types of planting. Drainage can be a problem, especially if the garden slopes down to a building. Terraces which are created at the foot of a slope are prone to flooding, so some form of drainage is nearly always needed to collect water from both the slope and the terrace. A Flowerbed Border Installation around the garden would also be a great addition.

It will have to be decided how to move from one terrace to another, especially if a mower is needed on various levels.

Although steps are the most obvious choice, ramps can be especially useful for barrows and machines, and even banks can be used if they are not too steep. Steps, walls and paving are all expensive items to build.

Some of the previously described designs demon­strate extensive use of what is known as hardscaping. These layouts would obvi­ously need hardscape professionals with the proper equipment to implement. In other examples, walls have been replaced by banks, so it will be up to you to decide. There is no reason why any of the designs should not be modified to feature more banks rather than walls (and vice versa), so long as it is remem­bered that banks do take up quite a lot more space than vertical walls.

Filed Under: General How To's


About the Author: Greenery always attracts Arthur Kunkle. He has a big garden where he plants many fruits and vegetables. His passion for gardening motivates him to write and share different tips on gardening.

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