Don’t Mow Your Hillside, Landscape It

By Mr.Andrew Caxton

Most home mowing accidents take place on steep hillsides. To avoid the possibility of accident, the best thing to do is terrace your hill or remove it all together by building a retaining wall.

If your backyard has a steep hillside, you may feel a bit daunted by the prospect of doing something with it.

Attempting to mow a steep hillside is one of the activities that frequently results in a lawnmower tumbling down the hill with the operator rolling after it.

By exercising great care at all times it is possible to mow a steep hillside, of course, but it’s quite possible to remove the problem altogether with a little planning. It is imperative to have some type of growth on your hillside, to prevent erosion.

You’ve got two choices. The first is to remove the grass from the hillside completely, and replace it with sturdy but attractive groundcover, from the dainty look provided by 3-inch “baby’s tears” to the 2-foot tall Scotch heather. Different colors are available too, of course, from the deep green of English ivy to the bright yellow blossoms of moneywort.


The second choice is to actually change the shape of the hillside itself – to terrace it, or build a retaining wall.

First things first

If you’re determined to do something with your hillside, the first thing to do is clear it of all undesirable material, from rocks to brush to weeds. Of course you’d do that if all you were going to do is mow it, as well. You never want to mow in an area that has rocks that can be thrown up and back at you (and you should wear eye protection whenever you’re mowing even a normal, flat lawn).

Do a few tests on the soil of the hillside to see what it’s made of. Just like the rest of your yard the soil can vary, from dense clay to coarse sand. If you choose to place groundcover on your hillside, you’ll have to choose the appropriate plants that will flourish in that type of soil. You’ll also have to give a thought to how much water these plants will require.

Does the soil absorb water, or does it allow the water to pass through and flood onto your lawn below? Again, you’ll want to give some thought to the type of groundcover you use. The kind with good, deep roots is usually best. If you’re planting shrubs, place them in staggered lines rather than in rows. The staggered design will prevent the water from rushing downward.

If you choose to terrace the hillside, or build a retaining wall, make sure you check the zoning laws in your area first. It is also imperative that you check with your local utilities such as electricity and water to ensure that you will not be digging into a buried power line.

You don’t want to start excavating into your hillside without making a plan first and assembling all the materials you need so you can get started immediately. If you remove all the ground cover and then have to stop work for a week or so while you’re waiting for a delivery of timber or stone, and a storm comes up, you might find that all that hillside will slide down into your back yard.

It’s possible to build a retaining wall yourself, of course, but you must do considerable research to find out the best materials to use and exactly how to build it. The last thing you want to do is build an elegant-looking wall out of timber, only to have it collapse on you because you didn’t build a trench in which to bury the first course of timbers, to anchor the wall solidly.

As with all things, research and planning are key.

About the Author: Andrew Caxton is a consultant who writes on many consumer topics for . A focused website that offers the best articles on landscaping and grass gardening.


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