Ask a Question forum: building a raised bed on a slope no dig

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Maryville, Tn (Zone 7a)
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SCurtis
Aug 24, 2014 12:35 PM CST
Hey everyone! I have a place on the side of my house thay is very sloped and very ugly. All the grass and dirt seems to like to erode down the hill so half the time it's bald to make it even uglier.
Thumb of 2014-08-24/SCurtis/8de5d0

I have kind of let weeds grow in because at least something is there? Lol

Also, previous owners put down landscaping fabric here and half of it is exposed because of erosion .

If you can't tell that's also where my gas line comes into the house.

I was thinking about making a raised bed here and put some hydrangeas and some raspberry plants I'm thinking. But I'm unsure of how to build a raised bed here without being able to dig. Last thing I want to do is hit my gas line! Anyone have any advice to how to go about this eyesore?
Have a black thumb except for vegetables and that's even a hit or miss
Name: Lynn
Dallas, OR (Zone 8b)
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valleylynn
Aug 24, 2014 12:48 PM CST
Nice sedum in that photo.
1. Contact the utility companies to find out where everything underground is. It is a free service, and they will mark exactly where the utilities run under ground (power, sewer, water, gas, etc).

2. Once you have that information I would start by removing all of the landscaping fabric. As you can see the weeds just grow right through it and make it even more difficult to weed, plant, etc.

3. You have options at this point. Do you want to use some type of wood, brick, stone, cinder blocks? Once you have determined what you will use, you can make a shallow trench to hold the low wall in place. Add compost to make the planting area level and start adding plants. You will be able to dig once you know where all your underground utilities are.

By the way, I love your avatar.
Name: Arlene
Southold, Long Island, NY (Zone 7a)
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pirl
Aug 24, 2014 12:49 PM CST
First contact your gas company. Here they will come out to tell you how deeply you can dig without problems. You may get suggestions as to which plants would be best suited to the site.
Name: Elaine
South Sarasota, Florida (Zone 9b)
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dyzzypyxxy
Aug 24, 2014 1:23 PM CST
I agree on locating the gas lines first. Also locate and extend the irrigation heads if there is an in-ground sprinkler system. Then put in a low retaining wall to hold the slope. Stone or timbers would work nicely. Fill with compost and topsoil. Don't forget to overfill - mound it up over the top of the new retaining wall - at first because the soil will settle a lot.

May I just comment that hydrangeas and raspberries won't both grow in the same conditions. Hydrangeas need shade most of the day, while raspberries need as much sun as you can give them. You need to watch the area to see how much sun it gets, then decide on your plants based on that. Unless that wall faces south, I'd have to say it's not going to be suitable for raspberries. If it faces west, hydrangeas aren't going to be happy with hot afternoon sun.
Elaine

"Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." –Winston Churchill
[Last edited by dyzzypyxxy - Aug 24, 2014 1:28 PM (+)]
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Name: Debra
Garland, TX (NE Dallas suburb) (Zone 8a)
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lovemyhouse
Aug 24, 2014 1:48 PM CST
I would also say to keep anything with a substantial root structure several feet away from either side of the gas line once it is located. Not just to make sure the roots don't damage the pipe, but if you have to remove something, you don't want to have to add extraordinary caution to avoid breaking the line on TOP of the regular pain of digging it out. Smiling
If you don't ask, the answer is always 'no.'
Name: Lynn
Dallas, OR (Zone 8b)
Charter ATP Member Garden Sages I helped plan and beta test the plant database. I helped beta test the Garden Planting Calendar I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Plant Database Moderator
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valleylynn
Aug 24, 2014 1:49 PM CST
Great points Elaine and Debra.
[Last edited by valleylynn - Aug 24, 2014 1:49 PM (+)]
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Maryville, Tn (Zone 7a)
Vegetable Grower Canning and food preservation Dog Lover Composter Garden Ideas: Level 2
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SCurtis
Aug 24, 2014 1:52 PM CST
Thank you guys, when I first bought the house they came out and marked so I remember that gas comes in there but not exactly. Don't I need to make a level trench so really cutting into the slope? My veggie garden is also a raised bed on a moderate slope and that's what I ended up doing, this is a lot deeper though.

Dizzy, this area is very shaded with about 4-6 hours of afternoon sun That's why I first thought of hydrangeas, but I love incorporating edibles into my landscape, any thoughts?
Have a black thumb except for vegetables and that's even a hit or miss
springfield MO area (Zone 6a)
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Frillylily
Aug 24, 2014 2:01 PM CST
Our dig rite system here only locates the lines within the vicinity. They have a rule of digging only by hand within so many feet of the area. They will hardly tell you anything more than "somewhere right in this area". Kind of worthless if you want more detail than that-- I think they do that so they do not have to be responsible if the line is hit. So with that in mind and I am sure you are going to do this any way for that area, dig by hand carefully a little at a time until you can actually see the pipes/lines. At that time it is a good idea to measure and take photos so that in the future you will know exactly where it is if you need it.

Depending on how old your service is and the codes in your area there is a good chance that your gas line is actually inside another line. They would run a line through a pvc pipe so that offers some protection and the line can be pulled out in the future without digging it. I would contact the company and be sure you are physically present when they come out so you can ask any questions you have. While you are at it, might as well pin point other areas on your property that you have utilities in and locate that too so you have it all laid out.

Plant items that maintain a shallower root structure and can be cut back in the event something needs repair. You should not have any problems adding some soil over the area to raise it up to level.
Name: Elaine
South Sarasota, Florida (Zone 9b)
The one constant in life is change
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dyzzypyxxy
Aug 24, 2014 3:47 PM CST
Hm, might be a nice spot for an herb garden although I like my herbs near the kitchen. Things like the different colors of sage, rosemary, lavender and thyme spilling over the retaining wall would be easy care, not too deep-rooted, and not mind the morning shade/afternoon sun scenario. That can be very tough on some other plants.

You also can't go wrong with daylilies as long as they get enough sun. Be sure to wander over to the Daylilies forum and check out the fantastic flowers there.
Elaine

"Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." –Winston Churchill
springfield MO area (Zone 6a)
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Plant Identifier
Frillylily
Aug 24, 2014 4:44 PM CST
Hostas may do well there as well, some of them can take some sun and get large enough to hide your utilities. They do not however have any winter foliage-they die down.
I think chives or green onions may grow well there, I have some mostly shaded and they do fine.
Name: Greene
Savannah, GA (Sunset 28) (Zone 8b)
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greene
Aug 24, 2014 5:05 PM CST
First, I agree with everyone - safety first - contact the utility company and have the underground utilities marked. It is no fun when all your neighbors have to be evacuated while the fire department and gas company show up to make repairs. People tend to look at you funny after that happens. (Two of my neighbors made this mistake.)

My suggestion is slightly different. I would not dig into the ground at all. I would build a garden box...

First I would add a double layer of cardboard or landscape fabric on the ground. Here is an up-side-down image of the one I am working on for a slope in my yard. Thumb of 2014-08-24/greene/cbff1dThe 'top' is the wooded board and the 'bottom' is some plastic re-purposed landscape edging. (You may want to use all wood or all plastic as it would have a better appearance; I just used what was on hand.)

Once the box is complete, set it on the ground, and use a level to determine how much of the plastic (or bottom board) needs to be cut away to make the box fit the slope.
Thumb of 2014-08-24/greene/687975


My box is about 10 inches deep at the shallow end, but yours can be any depth you choose. The sun/shade, depth of box, etc. will determine which plants can grow in your spot.

My suggestion also allows for (somewhat) easy removal in the event that repairs to the gas line need to be done is the future. Depending on the sun/shade I think that herbs and flowers with shallower roots would be a good choice.

It was necessary for me to develop this strategy when I learned that anything planted 'in the ground' belongs to the landlord. All of my newer plantings are in these boxes and can be moved if needed.



Sunset Zone 28, AHS Heat Zone 9, USDA zone 8b~~"Leaf of Faith"
Maryville, Tn (Zone 7a)
Vegetable Grower Canning and food preservation Dog Lover Composter Garden Ideas: Level 2
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SCurtis
Aug 25, 2014 12:14 PM CST
I like that idea Greene! Are you supporting it in anyway or is it just a box sitting there?

And Dizzy that'd be very pretty! My herb garden changes where it's at every year and this year it's literally the farthest from the kitchen I could have made it (poor planning on my part, but where I put it was the shadiest spot in my garden). I think I might try something like that in the front of this box. Does anyone have a thought towards what to put against the wall to hide the utilities a tad? I'd think maybe rosemary would get that size and its evergreen but I don't know if it'd be able to take a shallow root system? I bet hydrangeas would not work there and I know those aren't evergreen.
Have a black thumb except for vegetables and that's even a hit or miss
[Last edited by SCurtis - Aug 25, 2014 1:12 PM (+)]
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Name: woofie
NE WA (Zone 5a)
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woofie
Aug 25, 2014 12:21 PM CST
Green has a very good suggestion there. You could also just leave off the bottom and cover the ground heavily with newspaper and/or cardboard for a no-dig bed. You could terrace the beds and maybe even put in a raised platform for pots over the area where the gas line comes in.
Confidence is that feeling you have right before you do something really stupid.
Name: Greene
Savannah, GA (Sunset 28) (Zone 8b)
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greene
Aug 25, 2014 2:22 PM CST
For the long side of the bed (10 feet) I drove a few short pieces of re-bar into the ground to prevent bowing - but there are no gas lines in my location. You might be better off with a wooden stake cut at an angle so not to damage the gas lines.


Sunset Zone 28, AHS Heat Zone 9, USDA zone 8b~~"Leaf of Faith"
Maryville, Tn (Zone 7a)
Vegetable Grower Canning and food preservation Dog Lover Composter Garden Ideas: Level 2
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SCurtis
Aug 25, 2014 3:08 PM CST
Ok, I'll probably go get the supplies this week and attempt to do this, might have more questions coming in later. Your dog is so cute Greene, I also used to live in Savannah miss it :)
Have a black thumb except for vegetables and that's even a hit or miss
Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
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RickCorey
Aug 26, 2014 1:11 PM CST
I like the "box" idea and also "terracing the beds". That could be like a series of shallow retaining walls, but retaining good soil raised above grade.

I have a similar area, but very steep. I always wondered how I would keep the downhill "terrace wall" from tipping over. Thanks, Greene, for that answer! Set up the walls as "boxes without bottoms", but include side-braces so that the top of a downhill retaining wall is firmly screwed to the bottom of the next wall higher up the slope. That way the walls won't be able to tip.

Now I'm thinking of setting out a 3-4 step terraced "staircase" with each riser screwed to the riser above it, for stability.

Then probably scrape the bottoms of each 'step' to a less-steep slope so the depth of the root zone doesn't drop to zero in the uphill half of each terrace step.

Then I can wheelbarrow new soil to the top of the slope and throw it downhill into a series of "boxes".

Thanks, Greene!
[Last edited by RickCorey - Aug 26, 2014 2:48 PM (+)]
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Name: Greene
Savannah, GA (Sunset 28) (Zone 8b)
Rabbit Keeper Critters Allowed Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages
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greene
Aug 26, 2014 2:00 PM CST
Hey RickCorey,
Here are the 'steps' for my box:

Thumb of 2014-08-26/greene/4cb5df

Sunset Zone 28, AHS Heat Zone 9, USDA zone 8b~~"Leaf of Faith"
Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
I helped beta test the first seed swap Plant and/or Seed Trader Seed Starter Region: Pacific Northwest Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Vegetable Grower
Avid Green Pages Reviewer Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped plan and beta test the plant database. Charter ATP Member
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RickCorey
Aug 26, 2014 3:41 PM CST
Is yours a fairly shallow slope, Greene? Mine is ankle-breaker steep.

I don't know when I'll be brave enough to attempt it. Also, it's the very deepest shade in my yard.
Maryville, Tn (Zone 7a)
Vegetable Grower Canning and food preservation Dog Lover Composter Garden Ideas: Level 2
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SCurtis
Aug 26, 2014 3:53 PM CST
Those are cool Greene! It's been raining lately so haven't gone to Lowes yet, I can't wait to see if I can do this project Smiling
Have a black thumb except for vegetables and that's even a hit or miss
Name: Greene
Savannah, GA (Sunset 28) (Zone 8b)
Rabbit Keeper Critters Allowed Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages
Herbs Region: Georgia Region: United States of America Native Plants and Wildflowers Dog Lover Composter
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greene
Aug 26, 2014 4:40 PM CST
I have been working on mine slowly (the heat brought work to a standstill) but I am photographing as I get each section completed. Mine is a three-phase project. It was gonna be an 'article or idea', but you can have a sneak peak at 'Phase One' of the project.

The slope is not steep; only 12 inches in a 15 foot run. Here's a rough sketch (everything was approximate and some measurements were changed after the photo was taken). The box is 4 inches at the shallow end near the house and 15 inches at the street end.
Thumb of 2014-08-26/greene/1f4543

The build was done up-side-down on a concrete pad so the top would be level, so the first picture here is actually the bottom side (don't think the worms will mind). Basic construction of the part of the box that is visible from the street side; transition from all wood to 1/2 wood - 1/2 plastic at the midpoint; you can see where I used the plastic 'wood' which will be hidden from view for the most part by Liriope (rhymes with Calliope). That's a 2-foot level and a half-size shovel in the photo for size reference.
Thumb of 2014-08-26/greene/e6e12c Thumb of 2014-08-26/greene/da4862

Thumb of 2014-08-26/greene/9d2aa6
Oh, gosh, how did that photo sneak in? *Blush* Jack is inspecting my work. Thumbs up A 27 pound dog for size reference. Whistling

And finally the before/after pictures of phase one.
Thumb of 2014-08-26/greene/230c52 Thumb of 2014-08-26/greene/f18409

I did all this because I didn't get time to plant a Tung Oil tree and it grew roots through the pot. Rolling on the floor laughing

Sunset Zone 28, AHS Heat Zone 9, USDA zone 8b~~"Leaf of Faith"

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