Asked on Jun 13, 2015

My backyard slope needs serious help

by Sporty
I'm seeking advice on transforming my backyard slope that will allow me to extend a walking path so that I can tend to my veggies and plants and control the erosion issue that I have created. I'm seeking any advice that you may have is greatly appreciated.
A makeshift path I shoveled that's crumbling down.
These makeshift steps are the only access up the hill. they were spaced too far apart and I can't even walk up the hill without tripping and you can tell the boards have rotted out and are loose.
All types of critters are squatting inside my rotting railroad ties and I'm ready to serve them all in and eviction notice !
Another view of the steps
More erosion. I'm thinking some sort of ground cover.
Another view from the opposite side of the yard.
  24 answers
  • Sporty Sporty on Jun 13, 2015
    The video should give a better perspective of my slope.
  • Debi53 Debi53 on Jun 14, 2015
    I understand your pain! Our front yard slopes downhill toward our house. When we moved in, we had nothing but dirt & "ankle breaker" stepping stones. We planted a combination of low growing junipers & ground cover. The juniper (make sure you use only the low growing kind) spreads & has gone from individual plants to a solid mass in 3 years. We planted the ground cover plants just last spring. These are great because you don't have to dig to plant them. Just lay them down & water regularly until they are established. We cut flats apart & planted about 12" apart. This summer, some are beginning to touch & by next year we expect them to be almost solid. We mow the ground cover once a year (but you don't have to). The juniper is virtually no maintenance. Once a year we clip the runners to keep them contained. I have included a few pics to give you an idea of how things look now. We used to have terrible washing when it rained. Our choices have stopped this problem. We also had a safe concrete sidewalk & steps put in. Hope this helps.
  • Ellen DeVilbiss Ellen DeVilbiss on Jun 14, 2015
    You're right to want to replace all that rotting wood. Especially those old railroad ties on the front wall if you want to grow veggies. Railroad ties are treated with creosote and other nasty chemicals that you don't want in garden soil to be absorbed by veggies. Pressure treated is the same. So that leaves stone/brick/cinder block. Heavy work, but beautiful when done. You need a second short wall behind the first if you want your walking path level. Is the top area flat enough to use for sitting areas/patio? If so you need some shade so add a tree or two to the hillside. Or build an arbor to sit under.
  • Barb Barb on Jun 14, 2015
    I would create terraces with every other terrace being a path so you can tend to the terraces with veggies or flowers. Fix the stairs, plant your favorite flowers to the right of the stairs for cutting or just an outdoor color area. Plant the taller veggies at the top and add items of interest such as orbs, statues, or other items of interest that are not usually found in a vegetable garden. Wood is my material of choice, I used landscaping timbers on a house I owned years ago. I rented a huge circular saw to cut them. Looking forward to seeing what you decide. Good luck!
  • Cheryl A Cheryl A on Jun 14, 2015
    Why not dry river beds with rocks???
  • Patty S Patty S on Jun 14, 2015
    we purchased our home 5 years ago. It had ugly overgrown Juniper bushes along the back against the house. We tore out the bushes and I have since been adding mostly Japanese plants and small Japanese Maples. Also Amium (ground cover) to keep the weeds from growing. Hostas also grow to take up a lot of the area and create texture and foliage color. We have a walk out basement so both sides have a slope. This has been a work in progress for these five years but so much fun. We just added the bamboo railings this year. That side is now finished. I am now working on the other side. I have just planted two Prairie Fire crab apple trees and Hostas to start with. Now I will add in some 4 to 6 foot Japanese maples (they will not grow any taller) and other plants such as Astilbe and the Amium for the ground cover. All are very fast growing. If you are interested I could send you a list of the plants that I have used.
  • Kerry Kerry on Jun 14, 2015
    I have the same issue in my back yard but my yard is smaller - currently we are building a terrace and in the centre will be a cascading waterfall . Next will be to plant the banana trees and perennials , along the fence I am attaching lattice for the look but to also grow clematis :),
  • Nancy Nancy on Jun 14, 2015
    I have just recently broadcast Dutch white clove on a slope that looks just like this. I can see that the seed did some washing down toward the bottom and I plan to re-seed as I find bare spots. It's just now coming up and is very dense at the bottom and it spots. This clover doesn't need to be mowed as it grows only 2-3 inches high. I hope this works for me. I will report as the project progresses.
  • Teana F Teana F on Jun 14, 2015
    You could build a series of retaining walls down the slop from the interlocking blocks they sell at all the hardware stores.
  • Cindy Welke Cindy Welke on Jun 14, 2015
    I would pay to have a design done with mostly native plants. Then do the work myself over a couple of years. There are many shrubs that'll prevent erosion too.
  • Hjana Hjana on Jun 14, 2015
    I would try a terrace garden. and check out Geoff Lawton's video, "Regreening a Mountain".
  • Mary Mary on Jun 14, 2015
    We used rock walls on ours. Have also seen walls made from busted up concrete that looked surprisingly nice. Have seen photos of walls and steps made from bags of concrete mix- lay bags in place, open, water, let harden, tear away bags, then place next row of bags and continue process till you have a wall.
  • Kathy Marsh Kathy Marsh on Jun 14, 2015
    Spotted this on Pinterest ... long term investment
  • Elke Hawkins Elke Hawkins on Jun 14, 2015
    Photos from our sloped Atlanta garden.
  • Mary Ker Mary Ker on Jun 14, 2015
    I vote for the terrace idea. Two or three terraces would let you have a ton of space for gardening, if that is what you would like to do. Home improvement stores have lots of blocks designed for exactly that, which you can lay youself.
  • Victoria Jostes Victoria Jostes on Jun 14, 2015
    yes, terracing, w/ plants like lysimachia cascading down and simple, carefree plantings on each level. would be gorgeous!
  • Victoria Jostes Victoria Jostes on Jun 14, 2015
    a waterfall would be icing on the cake.
  • Jsid Jsid on Jun 14, 2015
    My next door neighbor collected bunch. Of old tires . He arranged them where to slope was. He then filled them with lots of concrete and mud . He leveled it. Never sloped again
  • Buster Evans Buster Evans on Jun 14, 2015
    Looks like you started along the upper side of the walkway with 4x4s as a border below the slope... that ends and the rest is just the hill to to far end of the property as far as I can tell... did the 4x4s not hold the soil back enough? you could finish that with a single row of 4x4s to clear the walk path as you started, then if the erosion is too bad after that add a second row on top of the first 4x4s to backfill with gravel for drainage to where the dirt doesnt displace the 4x4s and then plant above the "wall to help stop erosion... all this is just a suggestion, there are a lot of other good ideas as well.
  • Teresa Lilly Teresa Lilly on Jun 14, 2015
    You could also plant Vinca Minor, a quick growing ground cover that will help fill in the empty spaces as well as help with the erosion. Has pretty little flowers and does well in both sun and shady areas. You can still plant flowers and bulbs within the Vinca. Google for a picture. I would also add a short stone wall on the right side of your pathway to help hold back the hillside then maybe use pavers to line your walkway area. Replace your old steps with new concrete ones that are spaced better and maybe also replace the old railroad ties with the same stones used in the stone wall next to your walkway. Would tie it all together. Of course, these are just my thoughts. Would love to see what you end up doing with it. It's a great space. :-)
  • Teresa Lilly Teresa Lilly on Jun 14, 2015
    This Pinterest page is full of similar hillside landscaping ideas. I had forgotten about Creeping Thyme as another beautiful ground cover. Hope this helps!
  • Kathy Kathy on Jun 14, 2015
    I used blue rug junipers on my slope. The filled in well and I dotted the slope with day lilies and some annuals for extra color!
  • Amy Amy on Jun 15, 2015
    For the slope use creeping Jenny. As for the railroad ties, take them out and use flat stone piled up into a short wall. The steps can be removed and pavers put in with a gravel filler.
  • Duv310660 Duv310660 on Jan 11, 2016
    Why not continue to terrace up the slope? You could expand your garden (and not have to band down to your feet) or just through wildflower seeds to firm up the soil. Wooden retaining walls will not last for long; around here I find people with old barns that are coming down - the stones in the base makes for good terracing! Or perhaps your recycle store has brick or concrete pavers...