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Building Mountain Boulder Retaining Walls

 mountain boulder retaining wall

What to do when neighbor’s weeds are infringing on your property.

Build a mountain boulder wall. It prevents them from skipping over that hard surface. No, really. It’s about the soil and holding the mountain in place. Some use RR ties or timbers to build retaining walls and that’s ok too.  There’s always a place and time for big mountain boulders. Boulder walls can take a ton of pressure since they’re found in the mountainous region of Western North Carolina and are plentiful.

Creating a Firm Foundation for Mountain Boulder Retaining Walls

In building a mountain boulder wall, the slope and grade have to be considered and the maneuverability to get the machinery into the space to lay the boulders and stack. If mountain boulder walls are an option for the area, grading may be preliminary to the job as well as cleaning the surface of the terrain. Our forestry mulching equipment along with excavators and a skid loader can carve out and grade and clear the specific area. Footers for the mountain boulder walls are dug. The mountain boulders are divided out between the small, medium and large. The bank is blanketed with a heavy landscape fabric to prevent erosion and sediment from running off. The wall is then carefully constructed using a fine assortment of harvested creek stone with moss and lichen laden boulders of a mixed size and variety. The wall is started by choosing the larger, flatter stone to establish the first base course. The jagged and imperfect side is left face down to act as an anchor in the soil. The second course is ready and the flat layer is positioned upward continuing with each course.

Mountain boulders are moved with the CAT skid loader and a mini excavator with a thumb that carefully handles each stone in stacking. Attention is given to not scratch and scar the mountain boulders or knock the moss and lichen off. This preserves the aesthetic look of the stone and its embellishment to appear as though it’s always been in place. As the boulders are stacked, the stones are placed like a jigsaw puzzle pieces and layered tightly so the joints are minimal. As the wall goes up, graduated sizes of mountain boulders and rock are placed strategically. Once the wall is completed, the gaps are filled in with smaller boulders and rock. As the layers are being placed, stone and soil backfill is being packed behind the boulders. Finally, a level top course is set and the finishing touches to the rest of the area are performed such as plantings or mulch and edging.

If you’re perched on a hillside and getting too much soil running over to your side of the mountain, it might be time for a mountain boulder retaining wall. Give us a call and we can give you the details.

Hillside Gardening: Steep Slope Maintenance & Runoff

Handling Maintenance on a Steep Slope

Walking up a steep slope demands perseverance and stamina. Making it easier to access is key to maintaining your steep slope if there’s any hope of gardening on it. While aerobics might not be palatable, there are a few ways to access with some pre-planning and not skin your knees in the process.

steep slope-hillside gardeningTerracing your steep slope is an option with retaining walls. Depending on how steep the grade, will determine the height requirements. Retaining walls are a big plus in accessing more room to garden and for increasing usability in your space. As gardeners in the mountain, we try to find every ounce of flat land we can to make it easier and accessible. Having terraces can make it easier to access and give more flexibility in your planting palette. Terracing can also relieve rainwater runoff and slow the water down to soak into the leveled areas on the terrace. This prevents erosion and gives the gardener a reprieve in the daily chore.

In smaller gardens, gardening from the edge of the pathway or terrace will suffice. In bigger gardens, paths, steps and walkways along the grade can be built for easier gardening.

Rainwater Runoff on a Steep Slope

Rainwater runoff can be a problem if not tackled alongside planning the garden. Along with terracing, winding river rock into a natural forming creek bed is another solution. Creating a creek bed down the slope, gentling grading the hillside toward this area can be an attractive and useful resolution. The water is slowed down and allowed to soak into the bed. A rain garden can be added to the base of the creek bed for an additional filtering of water and to take advantage of more gardening space.

Once the water has reached the bottom of the hillside, installing berms and French drains that will direct water away from the foundation and entertainment areas is the next step. This ensures water isn’t eroding away your home and assets.

All of these different aspects can be addressed when planning your hillside garden area. Taking advantage of the many options with a customization plan in mind is what we do. We access each area of your property and determine the best solutions for your property. Give us a call to set up a consultation.

 

Landscaping on a Steep Slope

Landscaping can be a challenge on a steep slope. What plant is right for my hillside gardening? Let’s look at a few and how to make the proper selection for your hillside. The selections will also keep your erosion under control and the soil in your yard instead of washing away to the neighbors!

landscaping-steep slope-erosion controlOne of the considerations all horticulturist teach is ‘right plant, right place’ for its longevity and survival. Observe which direction the slope is facing. How much sunlight will your plants be getting?  Three hours versus eight hours? Eastern light versus western light will play a part in the selection of plant materials.

Since plants will be on a steep slope, drought tolerant varieties are highly suggested since irrigation may be at a minimum. On steep grades, the drainage will be more rapid than on a lesser grade surface.

Ideal Plants for Steep Slopes

Select conifers we recommend for sunny locations are: Cryptomeria japonica ‘Globosa Nana’ or Pinus thenbergii, Picea pungens ‘Fat Albert,’ Juniperus squamata ‘Blue Star’.

Evergreens for partial shade are: Picea abies ‘Nidiformis’, Microbiota decussate, Tsuga canadensis ‘Jeddeloh’, Magnolia grandflora ‘Little Gem.’

Other Shrubs: Hydrangea paniculata ‘Limelight’, Hydrangea arborescens ‘Annabelle’, Viburnum, PJM Rhododendrons, Cephalataxus, Pieris Japonica, Chaenomeles speciosa, Ilex verticillata

Grasses: Panicum virgatum ‘Rotstrahlbush’ (Switch Grass), Muhlenbergia capillaris, Schizachryium scoparium (Little Bluestem), Calamagrostis acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’

Groundcovers: Rubus calycinoides, Sedum rupestre ‘Angelina’, Delosperma cooperi, and Dianthus

Steep Slope Planting & Irrigation

When landscaping for a steep slope, do not plant vertically out of the hillside. It will look like the leaning tower of Pisa and will not perform well. Prepare a mini terrace for each plant. The bottom part of plant’s soil base will need to be built up in a half well to support the plant. This method helps retain moisture to soak deep into the root system.

Irrigation has to be maintained the first 2-3 years for the best survival rates. Installing a drip irrigation might help with consistent watering schedules and be a timesaver for the homeowner. Place plants with more watering requirements at the bottom or halfway down the slope. The plants at the bottom will have more of the accumulation of water from drainage. Once your plants are established after the third year, continue to monitor for water needs and adjust according to the weather.

Hillside gardening can be a challenge if you don’t know which plant material works best. Ryan Houston is an NC Plant Professional and an NC Licensed Landscape Contractor and can give you the best solutions to your hillside gardening needs. Give us a call for a scheduled consultation. We will go over your options and suggest a customized solution for your landscape.

Steep Slope Erosion Control Options

Steep slope erosion control can be a challenge and is a continual source of irritation to newcomers to the mountains of Western North Carolina. Welcome to gardening on steep slopes! The following are some ideas to make the chore not such a dilemma and easier to manage. While it might seem like a challenge, we’ll give some ideas on how to make the most of your hilly gardening venue, so you don’t ever want to move back to the flat land again.

Terracing for Steep Slope Erosion Control

Terracing can be an option to steep slope erosion control. Building retaining walls not only gives more room for gardening but also slows down the water to prevent runoff. The rainwater can be captured, and erosion is kept to a minimum or eliminated. Depending on the height of the slope and grade, will determine the use of terracing.

steep-slope-erosion-control-conifers-hillside gardening

Placing boulders in the bank as outcroppings can also add to erosion control and add native objects to the landscape.

If terracing isn’t an option or your grade is slighter than most, then other options come into play. Plant selection and certain mulches will retain the soil in place to prevent steep slope erosion. Placing boulders in the bank as outcroppings can also add to erosion control and add native objects to the landscape.

Plants for Steep Slope Erosion Control

Select plants for steep slope erosion control that are drought tolerant since the water will be draining off fairly quickly. This selection should include plants with deep root systems to hold in the soil and add to its drought tolerance. Select trees, small and medium shrubbery, grasses and perennials used will be good coverage to the steep slope turning it into a lush garden.

Mulches for Steep Slope Erosion Control

Mulches that hold together, are coarser and shredded will knit together better than solid chips. Double ground hardwood bark is a favorite since it is from maples and oaks. It is heavy; thus, it doesn’t blow or wash away as easy. It’s staying power is ideal for sloped beds and gardens. A depth of 2-3 inches is recommended to retain moisture and a top dressing for the beds and slopes. Pine straw can be used as well because the needles know together and don’t slide or move on a slope. Some would argue that it’s harder to blow out leaves in the fall so keep this in mind when selecting for erosion control.

If you need some advice on your steep slope, then call a professional to get the job done and keep your precious soil in place and not running out from under you!