Whether you have a sprawling half-acre plot or a modest backyard, the chances are that your outdoor space isn’t completely level.
Sloping gardens can be tricky areas to landscape, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t be done. However you plan to use your garden and whatever size it is, there are many ways to work with what you have.
Sloped gardens aren’t necessarily a problem, the larger your garden is, the more likely that you’ll have some degree of sloping to tackle. It could be as simple to remedy as adding a few steps or it could require some more hardcore landscaping intervention. However hilly your garden, we’ve got plenty of ideas to help you achieve a more useable space.
How to manage a sloping garden
If your garden is on an incline, there are a few ways that you can make the space more workable.
Think of how you’re planning to use your garden, do you want to create flat areas for seating and relaxing? Are you happy to place steps through a section of the garden, leaving the sloped areas as they are? Or maybe you’d like to terrace part of the garden to grow plants or vegetables. You could even include an impressive water feature, making the most of the sloping aspect.
One of the simplest ways to level a sloping garden is to terrace it, creating one or more flat areas depending on how sloped your garden is. You’ll need to create retaining walls from sleepers, bricks or gabions.
Terraced gardens have existed for centuries and in terms of crop growing in mountainous areas, terraces are essential to prevent water from just flowing downhill.
Terracing a garden is relatively easy to do, you will need to factor in existing trees and shrubs and if trees are established, you might need to build a raised area around them to prevent root damage. You can create a series of steps, reinforcing the steep edge of the steps with bricks, wood or stone.
You will be shifting a lot of earth around when digging terraces so don’t forget to add a layer of topsoil if you’re planning to grow grass or other plants afterwards.
Another solution to a sloping garden is to build steps up through a section of it. It will give you easier access to the garden and is less labour intensive than terracing the whole garden.
If you have a large sloping garden, it’s a perfect opportunity to create different areas. Use a combination of steps and terraces to create zones for planting, relaxing, playing, dining and wildlife.
How to work with a sloping garden on a budget
As we’re all facing the cost of living price hike, landscaping the garden probably isn’t high on your list of priorities. However, it is possible to level your garden, or at least make it more accessible without breaking the bank, or your back.
Do it yourself
Creating a terraced garden may sound like a huge challenge but, aside from the heavy digging and soil moving involved, it’s definitely a job that you can tackle yourself. You might want to sketch out some plans before you start. Creating straight-edged terraces will be simpler than cutting out curved terraces.
Get creative with retaining materials
If you’re creating terraced sections in your garden, you’ll need to retain the soil to prevent it from just falling away. Sleepers are often used, but you can use sandbags for a quirkier and much cheaper option.
Go for reclaimed sleepers
Wooden sleepers are often used for retaining walls. Their rustic good looks and durability make them a popular option. Although sleepers aren’t hugely expensive, you might find that reclaimed sleepers are cheaper, they’re often made of harder wood than new ones too.
Opt for gabion walls
If you love the idea of a retaining stone wall but it’s out of your budget, a gabion stone wall is a much cheaper option. They can look fantastic too. Metal gabion baskets are typically filled with rocks but to save money you can use rocks on the outside and cheaper stones inside, or fill them with bricks, old paving slabs or even bottles.
Small sloped garden ideas
Many small gardens are sloped but even modest plots can be levelled to provide more functional spaces. If your garden is moderately sloped, you might be able to level your garden with just one terrace, if it’s steeper, you can still add flatter areas to your garden.
Fill a sloped bed with flowers
If you have a small sloping garden, consider planting it up with beautiful blooms. It will be a paradise for insects and the plant roots will help to prevent soil erosion too. Plant carefully so that you have brightly coloured flowers throughout spring and summer and evergreen colour in winter.
Steps are an attractive way to link different garden levels together. You can put terraced planters alongside them or plant the adjoining slope with attractive plants.
Build a raised deck
Installing a raised decking platform in your garden is an excellent way to create a flat space in an awkwardly angled garden. Check out our garden decking ideas article for more inspiration.
Create a beautiful water feature
Small sloped gardens can be the perfect place for a custom water feature, make the most of the natural drop and create something completely unique.
Steep/hilly garden ideas
There’s no doubt that steep gardens make landscaping tricky, but there are several creative ways to make the most out of a less-than-perfect garden.
Steep gardens don’t have to forego garden buildings. This garden has managed to squeeze a home office at the bottom of a very steep incline. The planted roof helps the building to blend into the surroundings.
Create multiple levels
Split a hilly garden into a Minecraft-style, multi-levelled area. This garden design cleverly incorporates existing trees, steps and a variety of different levels to create an attractive, functional space.
Build a stepped garden
Very steep gardens can be tricky to plant up, but you can overcome this by creating a stepped slope, providing flat areas for plants to grow.
Retaining wall planters
If you’re terracing a very steep garden, the height difference between the different tiers will be much greater than it would be in a more gently sloping garden. Add interest to high retaining walls by building tiered planters.
How do I make my sloped garden look nice?
Making a sloping garden look good might be a bit more of a challenge than a flatter plot but you can add tiers, steps and areas of decking to make the space more useable and attractive. See a sloped garden as an advantage, you can build zones for seating and planting on different levels, creating a multi-functional and interesting space. You can even take advantage of the gradient by installing a water feature.
How do you landscape a hilly garden?
One of the best ways to landscape a hilly garden is to terrace it. This involves creating multiple levels that are joined with steps. The amount and height of the terraced sections will all depend on the size of your garden and how hilly it is.
What to do with a garden that slopes?
Sloping gardens can look incredible when managed well. You can keep it simple by creating a few tiers, one might be enough depending on how sloped your garden is. You can vary the surface of the tiers by adding grass, paving stones or decking and using materials such as sleepers or gabions for the retaining walls.
You can also put steps up through the garden, leaving the rest of the sloped areas as they are and adding attractive plants to them, or you can opt for more formal terraced planters.
How do you tier a sloped garden?
To tier a sloped garden, you’ll first need to work out how much soil you need to remove to create a level area. It might be that you can get away with just one tier but steeper gardens will require quite a few tiers, depending on whether you want to tier the whole thing or just part of it.
Next, you’ll need to dig out a trench for your retaining walls, you’ll need to build these first so that the soil you remove from higher up the garden can be piled behind them. It’s a good idea to either save the top layer of soil or add a new layer of topsoil on top of the freshly laid soil, particularly if you’re laying turf or planting grass seed afterwards.
It’s likely that some fencing will be exposed as you remove soil from the edges and top of the garden so make sure you factor in edging. This is a great opportunity to build raised planters.
For more details, read this handy guide to tiering a garden.