How to terrace a garden slope

Updated February 21, 2017

If your garden contains a lot of hills, it can limit the amount of space you have to plant gardens or flower beds. You can solve this problem by creating a terrace. A terrace is a flat area carved into a hillside, often used to provide a visual transition between a building and the natural surroundings. This is a labour-intensive project that can provide a dramatic change in the appearance of your property.

Measure the rise and run of the slope where you are building the terraces. The run is the horizontal width of the slope. The rise is the height of the slope from top to bottom.

Calculate the number of terraces by dividing the rise by the height of each terrace. If the run is 3.6 m (12 feet) and the rise is 1.8 m (6 feet), for example, you could construct three 3.6 m (12 foot) long beds that are each 60 cm (2 feet) high.

Place timbers at the base of the hill and drive an edging shovel into the ground about 2.5 cm (1 inch) away from the timbers on both sides. Remove the timbers after you have scored the ground.

Dig a trench between the score lines that is equal to half the height of the timbers. Level and tamp the soil at the bottom of the trench.

Drill holes every 60 cm (2 feet) through the bottom timbers with a 6 mm (1/4 inch) spade bit. Set the timbers into the trench with the holes pointing straight up.

Drive rebar through the holes in the timbers and at least 30 cm (1 foot) into the ground with a sledgehammer. Cut the excess rebar from the top of the timbers with a hacksaw.

Lay a second course of landscape timbers on top of the first, staggering them so that the seams do not line up. Drill holes and install lengths of rebar to hold the timbers in place.

Dig back about halfway into the hill and move the soil forward to meet the timber wall you just constructed. Level the soil in preparation for the next terrace.

Dig another trench at the front of this terrace, tamp the soil, and cut timbers to fit in two layers; this will be the front border of the second terrace. Drill holes and install rebar as before in Steps 5 and 6 to hold the timbers in place.

Excavate the hill for your third terrace and repeat the process to install landscape timbers to make the front border of your top terrace.

Add topsoil and plant as desired.


Adjust the number of terraces as desired to fit the height of your slope.


Wear safety goggles when sawing and drilling the timbers.

Things You'll Need

  • Tape measure
  • Wooden landscape timbers
  • Edging shovel
  • Shovel
  • Tamp
  • Safety goggles
  • Drill
  • 6 mm (1/4 inch) spade bit
  • Rebar
  • Sledgehammer
  • Hacksaw
  • Circular saw
  • Timber screws
  • Topsoil
Cite this Article A tool to create a citation to reference this article Cite this Article

About the Author

Carson Barrett began writing professionally in 2009. He has been published on various websites. Barrett is currently attending Bucks County Community College, pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in sports management.