Landscaping ideas for steep slopes

Written by holly huntington
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Landscaping ideas for steep slopes
A steep slope doesn't have to be a landscaping nightmare. (building and slope image by jimcox40 from

One man's problem is another man's treasure. The same can be said when trying to landscape steep slopes. Steep slopes can be too steep to allow for safe mowing, or might encourage rainwater runoff and soil erosion. But three landscaping ideas can help: adding timber steps, sowing ground cover and adding a water drainage pipe.

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Timber Steps

Steep slopes in your yard present a landscaping challenge. Some slopes may need to be climbed, preventing the use of ground cover as a complete landscape option. But timber steps, U-shaped wooden stepping stairs, are a great landscaping idea for this particular problem. The steps' U-shape require some type of internal filling, like pebbles, to provide the footing needed as you climb them. But this is also an opportunity to influence your surrounding landscape by the choice of step filler selected: choosing stones that are similar in colour to surrounding flowers or opting for woodsy mulch.

You can combine an evergreen ground cover elsewhere on the slope and use flowering ground cover, like lavender ice, as a colourful border right next to each timber step, making your steep landscape attractive and practical.

Sowing Soil Erosion Prevention

Ground covers, regardless of whether they are evergreen, colourful or a mixture of the two, are better at preventing soil erosion than bare soil on a steep slope. Ground covers also prevent the need for as much maintenance on a slope that might be too steep to mow or weed.

Some low-growing ground cover to plant on your steep slope include pussytoes, iceplant, hardy yellow and creeping potentilla. If you want an eye-catching red coloured ground cover in the fall you can plant dragon's blood, which is a red-edged plant in summer, with the entire plant turning red by fall.

Drain Pipes for Water Irrigation

Water will run down a steep slope during rainy periods, but that can be a landscaping blessing instead of an erosion curse. Run a drainage pipe beneath your steep slope and turn an ordinary problem into a potential oasis. You can lay a path made of mulch that extends from the top of the slope to the bottom. The path, created over the drain pipe beneath the slope soil, can lead to a pond or small garden below. Rain water can work to irrigate the vegetables or flower garden at the bottom of the slope or feed a small pond.

An iron seating arrangement can be set up around the vegetable garden, or log seating created near a man-made pond, to add further landscaping beauty to the bottom of the slope area. A handrail can be installed along the path up and down the slope, making access less problematic for those needing to go up and down the hill.

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