Banks, hills and slopes present challenges to homeowners because these steep areas of the landscape are more difficult to walk on than level areas. Excavating the soil from the bank removes the roots of grass and weeds that help to hold the soil in place, so homeowners' gardening efforts must include erosion prevention measures. Although mildly challenging, you can take advantage of the gardening space on banks so they contribute to the landscape appearance.
Adding a retaining wall allows you to cut into the bank to add more level ground at the base of the bank. Homeowner constructed retaining walls should be kept to a maximum height of 3 feet to ensure safety; your area may require a permit and a contractor to build taller walls. Stone retaining walls give the bank a natural appearance and stones are often affordable or easy to acquire free. Concrete wall blocks are another option that are relatively easy to stack and come in a variety of finishes to match the other features in the landscape. The two basic kinds of stone and block walls are dry stack and mortared, which use a binding agent to hold the blocks or stones together. You could also use landscaping timbers or sleepers to build the retaining wall.
Create multiple, flat terraces on the bank to use as garden space. Make the terraces about 3 feet tall and use retaining walls to hold back the soil on each level. Plant your favourite flowers on the multiple tiers so that each flower species can be seen clearly. Terraces provide a prominent displace space for your favourite garden statuary, a fountain or even an entertainment space. Another option is to grow your own produce, planting a different fruit or vegetable on each of the tiers. Cut steps into the middle of the bank and you have easy access to each terrace and twice the number of planting beds.
Native Plants Garden
If you prefer not to add a retaining wall, but still wish to eliminate the need to mow grass on the bank, plant a native plants garden to beautify the landscape and hold the soil back. Although you're free to plant any plant on a bank, plants that are native to your area are adapted to the soil, water and climate conditions, ensuring that they will thrive in the planting location. Ensure that the plants you choose have fibrous roots to cling to the ground. You'll prevent the spread of invasive plant species and reap the benefit of attracting native bird species who rely on your plants for food. Check with your local agriculture extension agent to discover the native species in your area.
Rock gardens are low-maintenance garden solutions for banks that make a major impact on the appearance of the landscape. Rocks hold back the soil and create the look of a naturally rocky mountain. Place the larger rocks at the base of the bank and smaller rocks at the top. Arrange the rocks on the largest side and bury them at least halfway in the hillside to anchor them to the ground. Once all the rocks are in place, fill in gaps between plants with native, drought tolerant plant species to hold the soil in place. Drought tolerant plants are necessary because steep banks do not hold as much moisture as level ground.
- Donnan: Retaining Walls
- Master Garden Products: Terraced Gardening
- The Native Plant Society of Northeastern Ohio: Importance of Native Plants
- Colorado State University; Planttalk Colorado -- Designing a Rock Garden; October 2010
- Kansas State University: Ground Covers, Rock Garden Plants ...; Gustaaf A. van der Hoeven; April 1978