Sloped backyards are a pain and a waste of space. Here is how you can transform your sloping yard into something beautiful without spending unreasonable amounts of money.
Unfortunately, many of us suffer from sloped backyards. Whether it be a steep slope or a more gradual one, it really seems like a waste of yard space. Naturally, homeowners with yards like this are typically ones without the financial means for a massive landscape renovation.
I have assembled a collection of sloped backyard ideas on a budget to help you fix your sloped yard, without selling an arm and a leg to get it done! Frankly, hiring a landscaping business just isn’t in the books for us, which is why everything you read in this article will be completely DIY friendly. Although admittedly, some ideas will take a little more elbow grease than others.
What Can You Do With A Sloped Backyard?
More than you might think, actually.
Slopes, especially steep slopes, prevent us from having things in our backyards such as a pool or a playset for children, a nice patio or sitting area to invite friends and family over for a cookout, and makes mowing a real pain. It may provide for fun sledding in snowy winters but come spring you’ll be slipping down your yard and end up covered in mud.
How can we avoid this?
- Rock garden
- Flower garden beds
- Edible garden beds
- Terracing sections of the slope
- Leveling your yard
- Installing a deck or patio
These six ideas on a budget to not break the bank are achievable by amateur hands just like you and I! We’ll start from the easiest and most affordable and go from there. Don’t worry, I’ll include individual steps to help you navigate your way to a better backyard!
Rock gardens can typically be more sparse than other gardens, like flowers or vegetables and fruits. The great thing is that these can be done on a slope, without terraforming the yard. That is why this is the #1 budget friendly choice for sloped backyard ideas, as well as being a capable project for DIYers!
So, how is it done?
What Rocks Can I Use?
Well, I’m glad you asked!
You can use any rock you like. Large rocks are used as a focal point for any garden, but that doesn’t take smaller rocks out of the running!
Options like gravel are good for ground coverage, and they also keep unwanted weeds from showing up. Pebbles and other smaller rocks can be used in the same way, if you prefer, but they can also create lines and barriers along the sloped land to break up the space and give it a more dynamic design.
Can I Still Have Plants?
Of course you can. The purpose of a rock garden is not to be filled only with dry, bland rocks. You can add a little life and color easily, and rock loving plants are the perfect answer.
Coral Bells are a great way to add a burst of color into your garden!
Prickly Pear Cactus
A name everyone knows! These are the perfect addition to a rock garden, and can take a lot of heat.
Hens & Chicks
No, not the birds! Hens and Chicks are a very durable plant, thanks to the fact that they’re a part of the succulent family. If you don’t already know, succulents require little upkeep and, like the cactus, don’t have to be watered as frequently as the more delicate plants.
On to the next, a flower garden is the second option on our list, due to the fact that they can also be planted on a sloped yard. This sloping garden will certainly require more attention than the previous one but I think you’ll find that the trade is worth it!
Despite the bursting difference in color, and the need for more frequent watering, there isn’t much difference between this garden and the last. Let’s get into it!
Can My Flowers Be In Full Sun?
That depends on the type of flowers you have. Don’t just go buying the prettiest ones you see, make sure you pay attention to the flowers needs. They will typically be shown on a plastic card stuck into the soil, or on the label somewhere.
Flowering plants that love the sun are as follows:
The Blanket flower, according to costafarms.com, loves hot and sunny places, growing through spring and into fall. They even attract butterflies!
For a sloped backyard garden that receives a lot of sun, durability is important! The Sedum plant incorporates a beautiful shade of green that is hardly ever affected by the heat.
If you’re looking for a bright burst of color, this lily is the choice for you! The bold orange is a great contrast to the softer colors you have planted and makes a dramatic impact on your hillside garden.
Is a Flower Garden Just Flowers?
You can diversify your garden with things like trees, shrubs, or even add a feature path that leads through it and back to your house with stone or concrete pavers. You can also get to work with some ground cover plants or use rocks as a different type of ground cover.
Let’s not forget about decorative benches or solar light fixtures.
Something I’ve seen is old bikes being repurposed in the garden like this, or planting things in watering cans and buckets. There are a million things you can do when you use your imagination.
Turn your backyard garden into a beautiful oasis of nature and plants!
You heard me right! Edible gardens are an awesome way to use the dead space of sloped yards. Not only can they be pleasing to the eye but you actually get something out of it!
However, I wouldn’t recommend just planting these on a slope because of the pretty certain event of soil erosion.
the process by which the surface of the earth is worn away by the action of water, glaciers, winds, waves, etc.
Definition according to dictionary.com
How Can I Prevent Erosion?
Here we have arrived at why this type of garden is the #3 choice instead of #1 for backyard slope budget ideas: it requires raised garden beds. These can be wooden boxes or made from natural stone. Raised garden beds act as a retaining wall for your soil to prevent erosion and keep your plants from being too exposed.
Try to avoid using plastics or heavily manufactured products. I know those are cheaper but natural is better for plants and crops, especially when you plan to eat them.
How Can I Install Planters On A Slope?
It’s not as difficult as you might think. By digging into the hill for your planter box, you create a solid anchor. Be sure that you level the planting areas so that nothing has a chance of sliding down the slope!
This can be done with stone or wood, or even brick – whichever you prefer!
What Can I Plant?
Once again, this depends on the amount of sun or shade your backyard gets during the day. Don’t forget to take the size and space of the whole garden into account, as well. Certain plants are more durable and can last through lots of sun and heat, whereas others are more finicky.
Root vegetables, such as potatoes or carrots, are always going to be a great choice for that sunny sloped space. Garlic – yes, garlic! – and tomatoes tend to have a good level of hardiness. Not as high as potatoes but still able to flourish in warmer areas.
Can I Really Take Care Of A Garden?
Gardening isn’t as crazy as some people make it seem. Start out small, spend time with the watering cans, and give your plants a little love – that’s all that it takes.
Not to mention, this can be a great family activity if you have kids. Educating your children on how to garden is a wonderful way to strengthen your bonds. If you give them a plant specifically to take care of, it teaches responsibility and care for living things.
As I have learned from my own garden, make sure you do your research first! There are so many great places to get educated on gardening, and one that I visit frequently is the Epic Gardening Youtube channel. They have a great collection of videos about gardening through trial and error, and trying new crops or methods along the way!
Check out their video on water gardening:
I don’t know about you but all this veggie talk has made me hungry!
Terracing is similar to planter boxes but on a bigger scale. You can go from a sloped backyard like the first picture, to the landscape of terraces with several tiers of gorgeous greenery!
This style has been used since ancient gardens and works just as well to this day. It’s a great way to prevent soil erosion in a sloped yard and one of the most beautiful landscaping ideas on a budget out there.
There are so many things you can do with landscape features such as this but before we get into that: is this DIY?
Can I Do It Myself?
It will definitely cost you more in labor but that doesn’t mean it isn’t possible – or not affordable. You can create these terraces or the retaining wall with salvaged or repurposed wood and stone. Even using brick from an old brick structure that has been torn down will make a nice, cohesive design.
As you can see in the photos above, someone has taken pictures of their process of installing retaining walls for their terraces on sloped land. Although hired help would definitely make things easier labor wise, it will definitely put a dent in your wallet. So, I guess it’s a good thing we’re budgeting finance and not physical activity!
Is My Yard Too Steep?
Never! Well, maybe not never, thanks to the 1 in 100 steeply sloped backyard, but chances are your yard still fits in the other 99.
With a sloped backyard that you feel is steeper than others, it’s important to have supporting posts that start from in the dirt and meet the height of the retaining wall. This makes sure there won’t be any sliding or displacement! I think you’ll agree when I say that you don’t want all of your hard work to be washed down that pesky sloped yard.
What Do I Do With It?
This is the fun part! Naturally, flowering plants, trees, shrubs, and bushes are the top choices. Turning different levels into rock gardens or flower gardens are the most commonly seen design for terracing on a slope or hillside but never forget that this is the perfect space for an edible garden!
Terraced landscaping is very versatile and you can make it to fit your personal needs. You can use it for decorative items like the ones mentioned before – old bicycles and buckets – but there are also options like a small water feature, decorative stones and rocks, gnomes, small statues, light fixtures and so on!
The point of terracing your backyard is to optimize the slope, the previously unused space, to your advantage.
Depending on the size of your backyard and the depth of the slope, this can be affordable and easy for you… or it can be kind of pricey. Leveling sloped backyards can mean filling the slope or taking away from it. Either way, it takes time and effort to complete.
Why should you level it? Well, as I’m sure you already know, having a sloped backyard prevents you from having almost anything in that space. That could mean a swimming pool, a playset for kids, a shed, or a fire pit to sit around with family. Leveling it off will create an entirely usable space for you to do whatever you want with.
Although this may cost you more, landscaping like this can be much simpler than other landscaping ideas.
Do I Have To Level My Entire Backyard?
A lot of times, completely leveling sloped yards just isn’t feasible – particularly when you’re looking to fix a sloped backyard on a budget. Of course you don’t have to level your backyard completely. Doing it in sections like in the picture above works just as well.
How Do I Keep New Soil From Washing Away?
Water runoff is more than likely part of the reason your yard has become the slope that you’re trying to fix. This is a natural occurrence, when rainwater erodes the soil or rock away over time, and you’re right to assume it will simply happen all over again without taking measures to prevent it.
This is why you have to install a retaining wall before you begin filling that space to get rid of the hill. Just like with anything else, these walls, commonly made with stone, will keep the soil from eroding and putting you back where you started.
So, Now My Backyard Is… Dirt?
I know, getting muddy wasn’t exactly what you were hoping for after putting in all that work. Lucky for you, you can just buy some grass. I’m serious!
You can buy patches of grass, otherwise known as sod, and fill your newly flat backyard with gorgeous green. For grass on a budget, because sod isn’t necessarily cheap, you can always go pick up a bag of grass seed at the store.
Grass seed is available at a superstore, such as Walmart, a hardware or home improvement store, like Menards or Home Depot, or even at your local greenhouse. Seeding your no longer sloped backyard should be done in the spring, like planting a spring garden, so it gets good rain and has time to grow before summer heat hits.
Decks & Patios
At last, we have arrived at the #6 in our sloped backyard ideas on a budget. Obviously, construction for a deck or patio is going to be the most expensive out of the six landscaping ideas I have put together. It also requires the most amount of your effort and time, and can be a combination of the ideas you read in this article.
What’s the difference, you ask?
Decks are typically attached to or come directly off of your house. They are made from wood or imitation plastic wood planks, and you’ll often find open space beneath them.
Patios, on the other hand, can be right next to your home or anywhere in the yard. Commonly made from stone, brick, or a cheaper alternative, patios are built directly on or in the ground.
Can I Build A Deck Myself?
Decks are, in fact, DIY friendly.
Although they may seem like a handful, decks can actually be quite to the point with their construction. If you have any experience building with wood or in any kind of construction, I know this will be a breeze for you!
However, not everyone grew up with a carpenter for a grandfather and I want to make it a point to help you out as much as I can!
How Can I Build A Deck In A Backyard That Slopes?
Building your deck on a sloped backyard means that it will be elevated, and you will need a stable base to make sure the whole thing doesn’t just topple over and slide down the slopes. That means you will want to find support beams, generally thick and square at the ends but long enough to go a foot or so into the ground to achieve that stability.
These can be found at your local hardware store or lumber yard. I recommend chatting with workers at either place, especially at a lumber yard, and asking their advice on the type of wood to use. They know what is strong enough to support and what isn’t.
Stilts will create space underneath that can be used for storage or play if you have children.
Can I Build A Patio Myself?
The rank of DIY friendliness for a patio is no different than it is for a deck. In fact it might be easier! It can require some leveling, or wide terracing, but it doesn’t have to.
Pouring concrete or laying down stone or concrete pavers requires far less tools than building a deck does. Concrete is to the point, you just pour it in the shape you want your patio to be and let it dry. It does need water draining, but that can be achieved with wooden supports or gravel laid underneath. Pavers you can make yourself or buy from the store, and all you need is to fill the spaces in between with dirt, sand, or your preferred filling.
How Can I Build A Patio In A Backyard That Slopes?
Like with a deck, you can get wooden stilts or pour your own stilts with the same concrete. You need to make sure that there are supports on the underside of the patio as well, such as crossing wooden beams like you find under a deck or porch, that way all of the weight doesn’t fall on the beams at the edge.
I would personally recommend that you not build an elevated or ‘floating’ patio yourself, simply because whichever type of stone you’ve chosen to build with will be too heavy and could end up getting cracked, split, or otherwise damaged.
So, the other option takes us back to one of our other sloped backyard ideas and requires a bit of landscaping.
Like I mentioned before, you don’t have to level your entire sloped backyard to create a space and do what you want to do, or you can level different heights if you want! For a patio you only have to level the space you want your patio to be.
That makes it easier, right?
After leveling, you can dig out the space for you patio, pour or place and fill with the material you’ve chosen, and voila! Now you have your patio! This means you can have a fire pit, or a grill to cook out when you have family or friends over.
You have successfully rid yourself of the sloped backyard, while increasing the value of your home and creating a space that you can enjoy to the fullest.