Planting on a slope: 40 plants to help you cope

“Gardening on an incline isn’t easy. Ask anyone with a slope in their yard. Take the challenge out of tending to a slope by learning which plant varieties thrive on hillsides and steep inclines. Taking a few extra steps during planting will ensure that your landscaping stays put and grows strong. When planting on a slope, the roots and trunk should be vertical; and the ground modified, so water is directed to the plant’s roots, rather than running straight off.”

Planting on a slope: 40 plants to help you cope

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Where I live, most of my neighbours have properties that slope directly down to Lake Simcoe, but the bottom of a slope or bank can end in a variety of situations: roadways, adjacent houses, ravines—the list is almost endless. But no matter where your slope eventually hits grade, erosion is probably an ongoing problem.

There are several ways to control erosion on slopes, but how you deal with your individual situation will depend on whether your slope is gentle or steep, your budget and your municipalities’ bylaws (in my neighbourhood they’re extremely strict—no hardscaping on the lakefront!).

Terracing slopes into a series of ‘steps’ is well-suited to larger properties that can accommodate a succession of levels; the steps themselves may be held in place with retaining walls, or if the drop in grade is not too great, by planting turfgrass to stabilise the embankments. If you prefer to plant traditional grass varieties, keep in mind that maintenance and mowing can be difficult (and dangerous) on steep ground. A better solution is to plant one of the new low-maintenance turfgrass mixtures such as Eco-Lawn that are composed of 100% fine fescues, and that can be left un-mown all summer to create a gentle, flowing carpet of grass.

On smaller properties, a single retaining wall is often employed to stabilise steep banks. Wet soil is extremely heavy, so retaining walls must be sturdy enough to withstand tremendous weight, and the higher the wall, the heftier it needs to be; walls should also include weeping holes or outlets so that trapped water is able to drain away. Retaining walls are put under further strain when winter frosts try to heave them out of place, so if you’re contemplating a wall that’s higher than 60 centimetres, my advice is to call a landscape architect and/or a trusted contractor; chances are, you’ll require the former’s expertise in hardscaping and the latter’s heavy equipment and muscle power.

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