Although planning how to terrace a hill for planting, whether for flowers or vegetables, can initially seem like an exhausting and expensive project, the end result definitely will justify the means. The sense of accomplishment and knowledge that you have turned an oftentimes barren hill into a beautful, productive landscape will be an achievement that will satisfy you for a long time.
General Tips and Guidelines
Before beginning work on terracing a hill, carefully measure the area(s) you will be working on. Although it is not necessary to account for every square foot, you should strategically plan where you will be digging, structuring and later, planting. Use pegs, string and flags to mark out specific areas on the site. Once you have accurate markings, use these to put together your ideas on paper in the form of drawings. You may want to consider taking photographs in case you are planning in the evening and it is too dark to look out at the site.
Estimating and Pricing Materials
Depending on your plans, list concise quantities of the materials you will need. For example, how many railroad ties will you need? Will you be using re-bar or stakes, concrete or sand? Which fertilizer is needed? After listing all the materials and quantities either get on the phone or visit stores that stock what you will need and get an approximate estimate of costs per item. Be sure to ask if your supplier will give discounts for larger quantities of a product such as concrete bags, multiple pieces of lumber or concrete blocks. However you shore up your terrace, whether using lumber or concrete blocks, make sure you carefully level each retaining wall and securely stake it with re-bar or concrete.
Soil, Fertilizer and Compost Requirements
Almost all terrace projects require the movement, subtraction or addition of soil. Pay attention to where you are placing soil that has been dug up so that you don't have to move it twice. Set soil aside from lower elevations to add to higher elevations as you progress up the terrace. As you move soil, be sure to add fertilizer or nutrients. When finished with an elevation, leave some room to add a compost mixture of either straw or cedar bark chips on top of the soil. This will conserve water and aid in controlling unwanted weeds.
Plant and Planting Considerations
Once your terraced hillside is finished, the soil and compost readied, it will be time to add your plants. Keep in mind that although your terraced hillside is now flat at each level, water will still run downhill and tend to gather unless you carefully gauge watering requirements. Drip irrigation and soak hoses work well on terraced hillsides because you can control the amount of water going to the plants. Select and plant your desired plants, but read package directions and adhere to spacing and watering requirements. It is best to water plants at their location than to water above the plant and depend on downward flow. Thinning plants is always necessary to avoid overcrowding and healthy plant growth.