Building Sunken Beds

Sunken beds use topography to your advantage to collect water. They work best in hot dry climates and red, water use even tor soils that don't suffer from excessive drainage. Build them only where there', no sa'lt nn hi! though, as they can increase soil salt levels. proDiem.

Sunken Beds

Divide the area into several smaller (3- to 4-foot-wide) pits for individual beds. (At high altitudes, create one large bed.) Remove the topsoil from each bed onto a tarp. If you can't tell the topsoil from the lower soil, remove at least the top 6 inches.

Best Farming Practices
  • Shope some of the removed subsoil into low berms surrounding each bed. If it's os sandy as your topsoil. the best you can manage is a low sand dune. It it contains some clay, you can build it up a bit higher possible. build a low wall around entire area out ot nor 'ocks, cinder blocks, or even hay bales.
  • Shope some of the removed subsoil into low berms surrounding each bed. If it's os sandy as your topsoil. the best you can manage is a low sand dune. It it contains some clay, you can build it up a bit higher possible. build a low wall around entire area out ot nor 'ocks, cinder blocks, or even hay bales.
Sunken Beds

Excavate 1 8 to 24 inches (even deeper at high altitudes). Keep this material separate from your topsoil. If you encounter hard soil or caliche, use a heavy-duty mattock or pick, or hire the services of a backhoe. Mix the removed topsoil with an equal amounl of organic matter and shovel it back in. Rake the surface smooth.


Benefits of a Sunken Bed

  • Improves absorption of water.
  • Improves water retention.
  • Reduces evaporation from soil.
  • Helps keep soil cooler in summer.
  • Extends growing season at high altitudes
  • Simplifies irrigation.
  • Reduces nutrient leaching. *> Reduces erosion.


Sunken Bed Garden

Managing Slop

Since water quickly runs down a steep slope instead of seeping in. soils on slopes tend to be drier than neighboring flat land. If your soils heavy, slopes can be an asset, improving drainage. But if your soil is sandy, they just intensity the problem of keeping moisture and nutrients in the soil. Soil on slopes tends to be thinner and poorer than neighboring soil. Erosion leaches nutrients and soluble forms of humus. It also carries off exposed topsoil. Tame with Terraces

Terraces are attractive landscape features that address all the above issues. In heavy soils, they give you level ground to garden in so you can take advantage of the improved drainage. If your soil's too well drained to begin with, the level areas slow down the flow of water so that it can seep in rather than just running off. To slow down the water even more, create retaining walls slightly higher than the soil level in the terraces. (See the following pages for directions for building terraces.)

Meadows Beat Mowing

If you don't mind the look of a grassy meadow, let the grass grow and reduce mowing to a couple of times a year. To win neighbors over to your meadow, plant lots of daffodils or other bulbs for a stunning spring display before the grass starts to grow. Long grass camouflages fading daffodil foliage.

Master Gardening Tips mm

A Few Low-Maintenance Perennial Groundcovers for Slopes

Sun- loving groundcovers Bearberry (Ardostaphylos uva-ursi) Cherry laurel (Prunus laurocerasus) Cotoneasters (Coloneasler spp.) Creeping junipers (Juniper us horizontalis) Creeping thyme (Thymus serpyUum,

X praecox arcticus) Daylilies (He?nerocallis spp. and cultivars) Forsythias (Forsythia spp.) Heaths and heathers (Calluna, Erica spp.) Houttuynia (Houttuynia cordata 'Chameleon') Ice plant (Delosperma 'Alba') Leadwort (Cemtostigma plumbaginoides) Moss phlox (Phlox subulata) Ornamental grasses (many spp.)

Pride of Madeira (Echium fastuosum, E aw dirons) btonecrops (Sedum spp.)

Shade-tolerant groundcovers Ajuga (Ajuga reptans)* Barren strawberry (Waldsteinia ternata.) Common periwinkle (Vinca minor) Epimediums (Epimedium spp.) Foamflower (.TiarcBa cordifolia) Green-and-gold (Chrysogonum ┬┐irginianum)* Hostas (choose spreading types) (Hosta spp.) Lamium (Lamium maculatum)* Lily-of-the-valley (Convallaria majalis) I'achysandra (Pachysandra terminal is) Sweet woodruff (Galium odoratum) Wild ginger (Asarum canadensis A. curopacioni

*also tolerates full sun

Periwinkle Vinca


Lawn vs. Ground covers

Lawn is a common option for steep slopes, but not a particularly good one. as mowing is so hard. If you don't want terraces, consider replacing lawn with low-maintenance groundcovers. The best groundcovers for slopes are vigorous plants that spread quickly and need little upkeep (see list on facing page). They should also be adapted to the soil, sun, and climate of your site.

Enrich the soil, at least in large planting holes, before setting out transplants. Spread burlap or a thick layer of straw over the area to hold soil in place and reduce watering (you can substitute other mulches, but choose ones that won't wash away). To use burlap (or erosion cloth, an open-weave version of burlap), spread it over the entire area. Cut Xs in the fabric to plant groundcovers.. If the groundcovers haven't filled in completely before the burlap starts to break down, spread mulch between them until they fill in. Be prepared to supply extra water during the first growing season.

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Strategies for Shallow Slopes

Any slope can erode, but a few tricks will keep your soil and nutrients in place.

  • Cover any exposed soil with mulch.
  • Run your rows along the slope, rather than up and down it.
  • Minimize tilling, as loose soil washes away easily.
  • Space vegetables and annuals close together so leaves are almost touching, to slow the speed of raindrops.
  • If you don't want to build terraces. leave horizontal strips of lawn between beds to help hold soil in place. Or. grow nitrogen-fixing white Dutch clover as a permanent cover crop on horizontal paths; it tolerates mowing and foot traffic.


Building low retaining walls (up to ll/2 feet high) is relatively easy. Several shorter walls along a slope are much more stable (and much easier to build) than one or two tall walls. For higher walls, consult a landscape professional or builder. Large retaining walls must be well designed and anchored to keep them from washing out, cracking, or tumbling down and causing a landslide after a few years. It's worth the investment to make them well.

Landslide Anchoring PlantsLandslide Anchoring Plants

Advantages of Ttrrating

  • Reduces soil erosion.
  • Water seeps into soil instead of running off surface.
  • Creates level beds that are much easier to work in.
  • You can grow a much wider variety of plants than on slopes.
  • Improves water retention.
  • Minimizes nutrient leaching.
  • Adds an attractive design element to yard or garden.

Temporary retaining walls. When planting groundcovers on a slope, build temporary retaining walls to hold the soil in place until plants get established. Drive 2-foot stakes partway into the ground to anchor the long, wide boards. Slender steel pipe makes good stakes; ask the hardware store to cut it for you.__J^^l

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    How to terrace a steep slope?
    8 years ago
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    How to build retaining walls in a garden?
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  • Ute
    How to build a sunken garden?
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    11 months ago

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