Slope Landscaping Ideas for backyards
Provided by the Western Massachusetts Master Gardener Association
By Judy Lochbrunner, Master Gardener
Slopes and banks are found in yards of all sizes, shapes and locations. A city front yard may be higher than street level and contain a bank down to the sidewalk or a suburban backyard may slope away from the home to a gully or stream below the lot's boundary. Hills and valleys may both wind through a large yard in a country setting.
Perhaps the slope or bank in your yard is a difficult or even dangerous to mow area. Ground covers are generally recommended for slopes steeper than 2:1 (1 foot vertical change for every 2 horizontal feet). You probably don't need to measure how steep your slope is, as you are well aware of those areas that require routine and time-consuming hand trimming or weeding. Or, perhaps, the slope or bank in your yard is that rocky, eroded area where nothing will grow. You regularly have to clean up the gravel and sediment that washes to other parts of your yard or pavement after a heavy rain or spring thaw.
Plan to rid your yard of ugly-looking slopes and their high maintenance by making them assets to your landscape design with only reasonable maintenance requirements. Many landscapers build mounds or excavate depressions on level ground knowing that changes in elevations add interest to a garden design; you too can use this landscape asset to bring beauty to your yard. Begin the process by examining your slope or bank.
First, be aware of the size of your slope and the extent of the erosion that has occurred. On small slopes that are not too steep, recontouring, which is defined as creating a series of level planting beds or terraces, can be done on a small scale with shovel and wheelbarrow. Large and extremely steep slopes that require major changes also require the professional services and advice of a soils engineer, landscape architect or other landscaping professional. Erosion will occur on any hillside or slope not covered by vegetation or structures. Signs of erosion are tree roots exposed above ground, small stones and rocks on the surface, small gullies, and silt or sediment built up and deposited in low areas. If you suspect a serious erosion problem, consult with one of the professionals previously mentioned. Plants that are properly selected and planted can solve less serious erosion. Plants are one of the best erosion controls as their roots permeate the soil to hold it in place and their foliage breaks the force of falling water.