Tiered gardens provide a number of benefits. They hold back earth, slow down surface water runoff, help prevent soil erosion, and allow you to adapt your planting space to the height and width of your mature plants. The terracing also allows you to use different soil grades in each tier. Large and small garden sections can accommodate large and small plants. This article highlights ideas to consider when planting a tiered garden.
Gardening on a Human Scale
It is physically difficult to plant a garden on a slope. By developing a tiered garden approach, you plant on a level surface and allow the surrounding areas to absorb the slope of the grade. Keep your tiered garden sections proportionately spaced for the human body. In other words, design your garden so that there is no section wider than a two and one-half foot reach.
Tiered gardens by design have some areas higher than others. Keep this in mind as you consider the varieties of your plantings. Trailing or vine plants need to be set anticipating their mature effect on the garden when they spill over the sides or edges of the garden. Establish an ecologically sound garden by following water harvesting techniques whenever possible. Knowing that water will naturally travel down slope, plant your water-loving plants higher to absorb and retain water. One way is to install a roofed structure above the garden's grade level and direct the roof's water into a collection system like a rain barrel. Distribute water as needed by gravity into the uppermost tier.
Nature Is Not Square
Building with wood to make tiered garden boxes is an ideal way to provide various levels of gardening surface. Think diagonals or hexagonal shapes instead of squares and rectangles. The construction is not much more difficulty and you gain the advantage of being able to work around more edges, keeping your reaching distance shorter as a result. The visual variety will provide an aesthetically pleasing effect as well.
Consider gardening on a larger scale in the same manner you would plant strawberries. Strawberries can be contained in a single, small planter with many openings. A tiered garden expands this concept and lets you create component sections of any size desired. It provides the same effect as a single terracotta flowerpot. By overlapping garden boxes as they tier up a slope, you gain the ability to incorporate water features, solar collectors, and other ecologically sound items directly into your garden while still allowing enough space for you to access your planting. The cascading effect of a tiered garden lets you plant vegetables and/or flowers in an aesthetic arrangement at the same time as making access easier.
- Elements of Garden Design; W. Joseph Eck; 1996
- Better Homes and Gardens New Complete Guide to Landscaping; Cathy Wilkinson Barash-Editor; 2002