Retaining walls are installed on sloped properties to deter erosion and prevent landslides. Retaining walls made of natural field stone can be beautiful, but walls made of poured concrete are sometimes quite unattractive. You can make the most of landscaping techniques that accent the more beautiful features and hide the uglier aspects of sloped land and retaining walls.
Dealing with Water
Water is a critical element in any landscaping scheme, and this is particularly true when dealing with slopes and retaining walls. Water needs to be directed to areas in which it will do the most good, and kept away from places it can cause damage. Provide adequate drainage behind retaining walls, and be careful not to shape them in a way that encourages water to pool behind them. Incorporate land profiles and drainage points that will direct the water to pass by plants while providing moisture, but be sure that the water can't pool on top of walls or around sensitive plants.
You can build retaining walls out of natural stone, cut stone, poured concrete, sandbags or timber. Each material has a different level of durability and expense. Your best materials should be reserved for retaining walls that will be highly visible. Less attractive materials can often be obscured by climbing plants and evergreen shrubs and bushes. If you have soil with a high clay content, consider importing sand to mix in with it. This provides a friendlier soil mix for plants, and makes the soil less likely to swell and shrink, a process that can destabilize retaining walls.
The steeper your terrain, the more substantial your retaining walls need to be. Harmonize the location of retaining walls with natural features in the slope. If there is an area that drops off steeply, put the retaining wall at the base of this area and backfill behind it. This will decrease the amount of labor required to create a flat area. When retaining walls are built closer together, they don't need to be as tall. This makes them more stable and less prone to leaning or collapsing.
The best plants for slopes are hardy with extensive root systems. As the roots grow and spread, they will help to keep soil in place. Find plants that are native to your climate and soil type. Exotic plants may be interesting, but they are fragile and fussy, and are more suitable as house plants. Hanging plants, climbers and vines are ideal for the tops of retaining walls and will grow down the walls, creating a lush and beautiful effect. Planting herbs and greens at the base of your slope can provide you with an easily accessible kitchen garden.
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