The Beginning: A Bare Slate
When building a new home the first thing that happens is all the land gets cleared of any trees and plants. So when the building is completed and it is time to do the landscaping, you start planning with a bare slate. In order to cut costs we opted to skip the professional landscaper and do the landscaping ourselves. This is how we did it.
Bare Hill + Heavy Rain = Mud Slides into the Pool
The swimming pool has a unique feature. A thirty foot plus long waterfall cascades down into the pool. With the hill continuing up in the backyard it seemed like the natural thing to do. Because of the hill, the far side of the pool has retaining walls to help hold the hill in place. We placed catch bins with drains beside the wall at the bottom of the hill to divert rain water and prevent muddy water from going into the swimming pool. In the beginning, this did not work. Sometimes when it rained we would have what we call “gully washers.” That’s rain so hard that you can’t see two feet in front of you. The results of those gully washers were mudslides into the pool. It would take days of vacuuming and running the pool pump to get all the mud out and the dirty water filtered.
The Left Side: Tier the Hill
One of the reasons the rain water jumped the walls and put mud into the pool was because we opted to skip the professional landscaper. We quickly discovered that doing the landscaping ourselves was going to take time and there was no quick fix.
We call the hill “the right side” and “the left side” with the waterfall being the dividing line. The left side was where most of the dirty water was coming from and it is steep. It is hard to work on a steep hill so we began to try to tier the left side in an effort to make it easier for us to maneuver on the hill. The only way to move the dirt while trying to level out a tier was with a bucket. It was slow-going, hard work, and it was nice to have teenage boys that were willing to help with this chore. We then built walls on the tiers we had cut out using leftover rocks and stones we had from the waterfall bed.
The Right Side: Plant, Seed, Plant
Receiving Plants from Friends and Family
The first plants that we planted came from my aunt. We went to her house and dug up enough monkey grass to fill two thirty-gallon garbage bags. We then chopped the monkey grass into little sprigs using an ax. When we finished plugging them into the ground we had over three hundred sprigs of monkey grass. That sounds like a lot, but the hill still looked sparse. So back to my aunt’s house we went. This time we received some day lilies and some irises. These are great plants. They easily multiply and spread plus they produce beautiful flowers in the spring. (View our irises here.) We also planted sprigs from a periwinkle vine and planted some nandina seedlings that we brought from our previous yard. Other various plants and flowers came from friends.
Check Out: Cover Steep Sites with Ground Covers for more ideas on how to landscape a slope
The Backyard Hill Today
To save money on plants it helps to have family and friends you can get cuttings, seeds, or seedlings from. Those plants will mean more to you than any you buy at the store. Your friends or family will probably be happy to let you cull out their seedlings if they have an overcrowded bed of plants. After all, you’d be doing some of their gardening for them, but in return you get “free” plants or flowers. When you are doing your own landscaping it takes time for the plants to mature for you to see the results. So, remember, patience is a virtue when gardening.