How to Terrace a Garden in Your Backyard

Every homeowner wants to enjoy their outdoor space, but not everyone has a flat piece of land to work with. Whether it’s an uneven yard or a home on a hillside, creating a terrace garden will add depth and function to your yard. But where do you start? In this article, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know to terrace a garden that you can enjoy for many years to come.

Determine the Purpose of Your Terrace Garden

Before you begin designing a terraced garden, it’s a good idea to decide on its purpose. Do you want to flatten an area to create more living space outdoors? Are you looking for a way to add landscaping, water features, or flowers to a steep slope? Would you like to grow a vegetable garden? Or do you need to create a retaining wall to prevent soil erosion?

Having a clear understanding of your purpose will help to determine the design and materials needed to execute your plan. Once you have this figured out, you’ll need to decide on a budget for your sloping garden.

The Cost to Build a Terrace Garden

The cost to create a terraced garden depends on several factors: materials for the retaining wall, it’s size, and of course, whether you build it yourself or hire a contractor.

According to Homeadvisor, the average cost to build a terrace garden can range from $2,901 to $7,832. Materials for terracing a garden can range from $3 to $40 per square foot. Here’s a list of the average price per square foot of some of the more common materials used:

  • Corten Steel/Metal $3 – $4
  • Earth/Chalk $3 – $27
  • Boulder/Rock $8 – $12
  • Cinder Block $10 – $15
  • Stone Veneer $11 – $15
  • Brick $14 – $15
  • Wood Timber $15 – $25
  • Poured Concrete $20 – $25

If you decide to hire someone to do the work for you, then you’ll also need to factor in the labor costs. These can vary depending on the type of materials and size of the wall; however, you can expect to pay around $53 to $58 an hour for professional installation.

Additionally, you may incur costs for tools (like a compactor) and other miscellaneous supplies needed to secure and strengthen the wall. These can include things likes the stakes used to secure your building materials or fabric to hold the soil in place and distribute the weight evenly.

Terrace Garden Design

Now that your budget and purpose are set, it’s time for the fun part – designing your terrace garden. You’ll want to choose a design that is best suited for the slope of your backyard and the function of the terraced garden.

Material options for your sloped garden space include treated wood and landscaping timbers, concrete blocks, bricks, and different sized stones. Wood tends to blend with your natural outdoor surroundings, whereas masonry and stones create more of a focal point. Pinterest is a great place to look for ideas and inspiration for your space.

Building a Terrace Garden

How to build a terrace garden depends on the slope of your land. If it is a very steep hillside, you may need to call in an expert for help. But in most cases, constructing a garden terrace can be a DIY project if you don’t mind a little hard work.

According to Nathan Sharrah of Mutual Materials, there are plenty of resources online on how to create your own hillside terrace garden. Mutual Materials offers numerous videos and installation guides for their stone and masonry products. So do other companies that offer terracing materials. You can also check out YouTube for step-by-step instructional videos and know how to help you along with this project.

“If you are thinking about building a terraced garden yourself, the main thing to consider is are you confident enough in your abilities to do the project,” said Nathan. “You can find all kinds of instructions on how to create one yourself, but if you feel unsure that you can do it, then it’s best to hire a professional.”

If you are confident that you can tackle this project, then first you’ll need to figure out the rise (vertical distance) and the run (horizontal distance) of your slope. These measurements and the number of garden beds to want to create will help you to determine the height and width of each bed. Warning: Figuring out the slope may involve math.

The next step is to dig your trenches. How deep you dig depends on the number of tiers you want to create. The more levels you build, the deeper you must dig the first tier. With each tier, you’ll need to be sure that the front and two sides of each terrace level are even.

Once the ground is dug and leveled out, you’ll add your building materials. This could be landscape timbers, pavers, stones, bricks, etc. Be sure to anchor them down and level out the soil behind them, then repeat for additional tier levels.

You can incorporate many types of material into your terrace. Credit: Field Outdoor Spaces, CC 2.0

Finishing off Your Terraced Garden

With the foundation of your terrace garden built, you can now add shrubs, ground cover, flowers, and other types of greenery to your hillside garden. Here the options or virtually endless. You can mix textures, heights, elements, and colors to create your own unique outdoor space.

When choosing your plants and materials, remember that this area, like other garden areas, will require maintenance to retain its beauty. So be sure to choose landscaping that will thrive in this hillside environment. You can always seek the guidance of a landscaping professional for gardening tips and advice on the best plants for your space.

If you have a hillside or steep slope that you’d like to transform into an enjoyable outdoor space, terrace gardening is a great option. It does involve some work and research upfront, but the end result is a stunning space that you can enjoy for years to come!

Jennifer Lester

Jennifer Lester

Jennifer Lester is a freelance writer and social media strategist who covers a variety of home and garden topics. She’s a graduate of Texas A&M University and the proud mom of three boys. In her spare time, she volunteers in her community and her children’s schools.