Image by Eunice
By Susan Patterson, Master Gardener
So you want a garden but your landscape is nothing more than a steep hill or slope. What is a gardener to do? Consider building a terrace garden design and watch all your gardening woes slip away. Hillside terrace gardens are a great way to grow an array of plants and vegetables without the worry of having all your hard work simply wash away. Continue reading to learn more about how to build a terrace garden in your landscape.
What is a Terrace Garden?
Now that your interest in a hillside terrace garden has been peaked, you might be asking yourself, “What is a terrace garden and where do I start?” Terracing in the landscape creates mini-gardens and is an excellent option for homeowners with steep slopes where planting is otherwise impossible. Terrace gardens help prevent erosion by dividing hilly areas into smaller level sections where water is more easily distributed and soaked into the ground.
Hillside terrace gardens are an attractive addition to the landscape and can be planted with a variety of evergreen creeping shrubs, perennials or annuals.
Terrace Garden Design and Materials
The terrace garden design you choose must be the one that best suits your landscape and the degree of the slope you are dealing with. Terraces can be built out of any number of materials, although treated wood is most often used.
Treated wood offers a number of advantages over other materials, namely its cost and the fact that it blends in easily with the natural surroundings. Many homeowners choose to use landscape timbers that will last for many seasons in the garden. If you are planning on implementing a vegetable garden, you may want to consider using cedar wood instead to avoid any chemicals that may leach into the soil.
Other materials that can be used include bricks, concrete blocks and rocks or various sizes and shapes.
How to Build a Terrace Garden
Building a terrace garden can be a labor-intensive project and should only be attempted if you are in excellent physical condition and have had some prior carpentry or landscaping experience. If you are unsure of a project of this degree, it is best to hire a professional who is skilled in such work.
If you choose to build the terrace garden on your own, it is essential that you determine the rise and run of the slope you are working with. The run is the horizontal measurement between the hilltop and its bottom. The rise is the vertical distance from the bottom of the slope to the top of the slope. Use the rise and the run measurement to determine the height and width of each bed, depending on the number of beds you wish to have.
Begin the terrace garden at the bottom of the slope. Dig a trench for the first tier. The more levels you will have in your garden, the deeper the trench should be. Make sure your trench is level and place your foundational terrace layer into the trench.
Next, you will need to dig a trench for the sides of the terrace. It is essential that the bottom of the trench is level with the first trench. Anchor building materials with spikes. Layer your next level on top of the first and anchor them together with spikes.
Dig up the soil in the back of the terrace box to the front, until the box is level. Add additional soil if necessary. Repeat these steps for all of your terrace levels. Be sure to find and follow detailed instructions for any complex garden terrace design projects you may have.