Landscaping a sloped north-facing yard presents several challenges. A north-facing yard typically gets more shade than a yard that faces south. Soil warms up later in the spring and typically stays cooler through the summer, so you must choose hardy plants that tolerate cool temperatures and shade. In addition, you have to consider how to handle the slope. The best way to do this is to build one or more retaining walls, which will help you create planting beds and hold the soil in place. Does this Spark an idea?
- Soil sample
- Blueprint paper
- Rubber mallet
- Shrubs, trees and flowers
Assess the site, and consider your needs. Research the amount of sunlight the front yard gets, as well as the average amount of wind. Take a soil sample to an agricultural extension near you to determine the type of soil you have. Also consider the type of lighting your finished landscape will require.
Draw out a plan for the landscape on blueprint paper. If you want to put in flower beds, you may need to build one or more retaining walls to hold the soil in place. Include these walls and beds, along with any other hardscaping you have in mind. Also include flower and shrub beds directly in front of your house. Although you may not be able to have curved beds along your retaining walls, you can plan for them in front of your house. This will soften your overall landscaping.
Take your plan to your favorite nursery. Ask staff members to help you select shrubs and flowers for your beds. Some nurseries will provide plans free of charge if you buy all of your plantings from them.
Build retaining walls to prevent soil erosion and create beds for your plantings. To make each retaining wall, mark off the boundaries with stakes and string. Dig a trench 4 inches deep and as wide as your pavers to provide an even foundation. Tamp the trench down with a mallet to ensure that the soil is hard and compact.
Lay the first pavers in the trench, checking them with a level to ensure that they are even. Tamp them with a mallet or hammer if they are not level. Once the first row is complete, add subsequent rows, staggering the pavers to make attractive and stable retaining walls.
Lay landscaping fabric over each bed. Backfill the area with soil, pressing the soil firmly against the pavers.
Select hardy shrubs, trees and flowers that tolerate shade or partial shade, depending on the growing conditions in your north-facing yard. In your beds, plant the shrubs first. Then add perennial and annual flowers as filler plants. Depending on how big your plants are, you may need to cut holes in the landscaping fabric make room for the roots.
Plant grass in the designated lawn areas. Depending on how much shade your north-facing yard gets, you might want to plant a grass seed that contains fine fescue, along with other grass types. Fine fescue tolerates more shade than other grasses but doesn't hold up to heavy foot traffic. Planting a blend provides the best attributes of several grass types.
Plant shade-loving ground covers as an alternative to lawns on any remaining slopes. Ground covers, such as ivy, wild ginger and bugleweed keep soil in place and eliminate mowing on the slope.
- University of Missouri Extension: Landscaping Your Front Yard:
- North Carolina State University Extension: Residential Landscaping
- Taunton Home Front Yard & Backyard Idea Book: Jeni Webber and Lee Anne White
- Washington State University Extension: Home Lawns
- Lowe's.com: How to Build a Block Retaining Wall
- Photo Credit Noel Hendrickson/Valueline/Getty Images