What is terracing?
Terracing gives you several levels of gardening space.
There are generally three degrees of slope in landscaping: shallow, medium and steep. The steepness of the slope and the number of terraces dictate how tall the retaining walls should be. Terracing your planting beds can take advantage of slope by taking what you might consider unusable space and converting it to stepped, level areas. While there is good reason why a real estate agent may be eager to point out a flat lot when selling a home, a sloped lot should still be given a fair shake.
Not all slopes require retaining walls. A gentle, shallow slope with good soil can be kept in place with ground covers and other plants. Terracing a shallow slope for planting a flower or vegetable garden requires moving enough soil to create a flat plateau. You can also fill in a low point to get the same result. Either method creates a level surface suitable for your plants, as long a you make sure the fill dirt is stable and has settled evenly.
You will fare better by building a retaining wall for a medium slope. If the soil won't stay in place after you cut into the slope, you should build a retaining wall to hold it in place. Even if a retaining wall isn't necessary, building one will give you peace of mind knowing the soil isn't going anywhere. Placing your planting beds on a flat surface below the slope works well as long as you plan for adequate drainage that terminates in a storm drain or catch basin.
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