Landscaping a sloping yard can be a challenge, especially if there are substantial drop-offs in the grade. A sloping yard without proper plantings can lead to erosion problems in the yard as a whole. It can also be extremely difficult to mow a lawn on a hillside. One way to deal with these slopes is to use retaining walls to create a series of steps.
Retaining walls are attractive and practical. These walls will add interest to your landscaping, solve the problems of a sloping yard and stop erosion on a hillside. There are several types of landscape materials that can be used in building a wall. They include natural rocks or boulders, pavers or heavy timbers such as railroad ties or landscape timbers.
Your choice of material and the style of garden and yard you are developing will enhance the appearance of the retaining wall. If you’re developing an informal or casual look in your garden, large rocks and boulders will work well. Railroad ties or timbers will fit into that style also. Pavers or bricks will contribute to a more formal look. The most important item is that the materials should blend in with the rest of your landscaping or be an attractive design feature.
Constructing retaining walls can be done by a homeowner or a landscaper. No matter who does the construction work, the homeowner should understand what goes into the building of a proper retaining wall.
Locating the wall is the first step. Before digging, call the utility companies to determine if there are any underground lines. Once any underground utilities are located, the placement of the retaining wall can be determined. If you are putting in a curved wall, use a garden hose to mark the wall’s edge. Once you are satisfied with the location, mark the ground with either flour or landscape paint. You are now ready to prepare for the foundation.
Dig a trench for the first layer of wall material that will be used. The standard for determining the depth is one inch of depth for every eight inches of wall height. The trench should be free of rocks and debris and as level as possible. Add a layer of rock to serve as a base. Tamp the rock until it is compacted, and the surface is fairly level.
Build the wall to the desired height. Use drainage material in the first few inches of the trench. Drainage pipe should be laid on top of this material before backfilling. One row of wall material should not be placed squarely over the row beneath it. Each row should be stepped back slightly to increase stability. When you are finished building the wall to the desired height, you can backfill with soil and plant grass or continue with your landscape planting.
Retaining walls are both beautiful and practical. They can add interest to your landscape while, at the same time, they can make your yard safer, more attractive and stop erosion problems.