Slope garden

by M. Arjoca,

Slope garden with yellow flowersMaking a garden on a slope can be a real challenge for those who want their own piece of heaven and they have just a field on a hill. But nothing seems impossible when you really want something. Especially when you love plants and you are a passionate gardener. When we think on the terraces of the Andes where the Incas grew their vegetables, why not to try ourselves?
When you hear the word “slope”, the first thoughts you have are about soil erosion and water drainage. These two aspects can be a real problem and it needs a lot of work to deal with them. Plus, there are also other issues like how steep is the slope, how is she oriented, the quality of soil and choosing the right plants.
But the problems can be different from case to case. That’s why, like in any other project you start and want successfully to complete, you have to make a work plan at first.

  1. analyze the slope situation and the space
  2. you decide what kind of garden you want and/or what kind of garden is suited to that field
  3. decide what are the measures you have to take to make the gardening possible
  4. decide what kind of materials, tools you need and how much work you have to do
  5. start the work
  6. prepare the soil
  7. choose and plant the plants
  8. decorate the space
  9. maintain the garden and be careful with the watering methods
  10. enjoy your creation

Steep slope gardenThe slope situation and the space
 The fields can be different from case to case, even if all hills have slopes. The slopes can be different as inclination, orientation and soil.
The inclination of slope is very important because on it depends if you can or not to make there a garden. There are not many chances to make one on a very steep slope. Only if you want to exercise your climbing skills and really use your creativity.
When you decide to make the garden, take the next step.
Observe on which cardinal direction is the slope oriented because the light is very important in the life of plants. If the slope is on the south side of the hill (in case you live in the northern hemisphere), it definitely benefits of light and warmth. So you can choose the plants keeping this in mind. But don’t forget that too much light and and too much warmth can also do damage. If you live in south and your slope lies all day in full sun, the sun may burn your plants. Plus, the water will evaporate faster. A solution in this case is to choose the plants depending on their needs of light. There are plants which love bright light and there are plants which tolerate partial shade.
When the slope is oriented on the north side, depending on the height of the hill, there are chances that it lies all day in shadow. And if your house is on the base of the hill, it will be always shaded.
On the west-facing slopes the sun is hot on afternoon and the east-facing slopes have sun just in the morning. The orientation of slope is important also for the area where you live. You can live in south or in north. In winter the plants can be protected from frost on south-facing slopes.
Another important aspect is the wind. How often and from which direction blows the wind? Is the slope (your future garden) exposed to winds? Some plants are adapted to such conditions but others don’t.
Terrace on slope gardenAfter you have the information about the height of the hill and the orientation of the slope, decide what kind of quality has the soil. Some slopes have sandy or calcareous soil and others have rocky soil. You can let the site exactly how it is and just choose plants adapted to that type of soil. Or prepare the site and the soil according to your goals. You can use simple methods to establish the soil structure and its pH. There are plants which prefer slightly-acid soil and there are plants which prefer alkaline soil.
The water and water drainage can be a problem for slope gardens. Naturally, the water will flow downhill and this means that the top of the hill may remain too dry and the base too wet. So the plants that grow on top will not have enough water and those that grow on the base will have too much. Plus, if there is a large quantity of water (you live in a rainy area), there is also the risk of landslide.
The wind and the water (rain) are two elements that can cause soil erosion. That’s why when you plan a slope garden, think also if you want a water drainage system and what watering methods are best to use.
Choosing the right plants is also important. On the top area (the dry one) you can grow plants which don’t need so much water and at the base you can grow plants that love moisture soil.
If the slope is too steep or you just want to strengthen it, you can plant trees and bushes that have deep, bushy roots. You can alternate these trees and bushes with plants that have short roots. It is recommended to choose native plants because they are well adapted to the local environment conditions.
The deep, bushy roots will form together with the short ones a net that will not let the soil and water slip away. This decreases the risk of soil erosion.
If you make a vegetables or flowers garden, the rows must be made across the slope to prevent the erosion. You can grow companion plants to sustain and protect each other from pests.
Terraces on slope gardenWhen you work every day in the garden, you need easy access to plants and it is better if the space is large enough. The work must be a pleasure and not a burden. So it is better to level the site making terraces on it. Depending on how large the slope is, you can make 2 or more terraces. You can make a retain wall for these terraces to keep the soil in place. To build a retain wall you can use different materials: rocks, beams, concrete etc. What kind of materials you use depends on how steep is the slope, what budget you have, how much work you want to do, what kind of garden you want and how its look should be.
The width of the terraces depends on the resistance of materials, on the quantity of soil needed to complete the site and on how much effort you are willing to put. The important thing is that the final result must be a combination of resistance, accessibility and beauty.   
The ground on terraces can be completed with good soil, suited to the needs of plants. Add compost and organic fertilizers and make a mixture as you like. You can lay mulch on the ground to prevent weeds, to protect the plants from frost and heat, and eventually to feed them.
Curved paths can be designed to go down from the top to the base of the hill. This way some objects (a wheelbarrow for example) may be easily moved through the garden. And if you are not a fan of paths, you can create steps from one terrace to another. The idea is to have easy access to plants and to move freely on your slope Slope garden with blue flowersgarden.
With some effort you can have a wonderful and distinct garden. You can choose, grow and arrange the plants in a way that the look will be very beautiful. For example, on the top area, on the edge of the terraces can be grown viney plants which in time will cover the retain walls. If you use rocks or stones to keep the soil in place, you can plant succulents between them. The succulents are adapted to poor soil and they don’t need too much water. In time they will cover the rocky space and the aspect will be very charming.
Combining plants with different colors and heights you can design in your own way, a special place where you can feel great.