How do I deal with a steep slope in my front yard?

Asked May 24, 2015, 9:28 PM EDT

I am writing with a question about landscaping/berming. My family and I own a home in North Minneapolis and the front yard has a big slope right under a maple tree. This slope has a lot of erosion---the grass will not hold due to lack of sunlight and the steep angle of the hill. We have tried to plant a few varieties of ground cover, but nothing has worked so far. When we researched landscaping options, we found a product called Verdura. This product is a plantable concrete system and seems as though it can be used as a living wall. We tried to contact the company to see if this product could be an option for us but they do not carry it in the tri-state area. We are wondering what kind of options we have. We have looked into several other landscaping options, including gabion walls, block retaining walls, etc. Ideally we would like to be able to plant a ground cover without having to build a wall, but we are having a hard time finding something that will work under such a shaded area. We are also interested in some kind of living wall. Do you have any suggestions or recommendations on where to go from here? We live overseas for 10 months of the year and only have 8 weeks in the summer to finish our project. We are on a limited budget so we have been trying to investigate options that we can do ourselves and that are cost-efficient.

Hennepin County Minnesota

3 Responses

"Tough Plants for Tough Sites" is a good resource. There are plants and shrubs that will hold a slope and grow in shade. Building a wall to hold the slope may put too much dirt over the roots of the maple. Too much soil placed under a tree can suffocate the tree.

My first choice for stabilizing the slope would be plants. Please see the articles listed below:

With regards to a limited budget, the Longfellow Garden Club has an occasional plant swap in which all plants are free: Longfellow Garden Club

I have looked over the links that you provided and they have been very helpful. I think I should clarify that the maple tree is in the boulevard but it shades the slope in our front yard so much that there is erosion and it has proven difficult for us to sustain ground cover there. I am attaching a few photos of the slope (but on the left side of our house and on the right side, where there is more sun). According to the links that you sent, it looks like there might be possibilities of planting shrubs, ornamental grasses, and/or some kind of ground cover on a slope with shade. Would you recommend using a variety of plants and mulching around them? Should we try to incorporate some rocks/boulders to help with the erosion? Do you have any recommendations where we can purchase some of these plants? We will be back in Minneapolis at the beginning of July and have approximately 1 month to complete the project.

Using keystone landscaping blocks about 3 blocks high at the bottom of the slope and filling in the slope with shade tolerant plants with tough roots would be effective. The blocks can be found at big box stores like Lowes, for example.

Hostas hold a slope well and can be cost effective since they can grow very large. I would ask all my friends if they have hostas they are willing to divide. Hostas are tough as nails and can be transplanted and divided any time. Looking at the amount of area you wish to cover there really isn't much room for shrubs, and a few shrubs will not hold enough of the bank. Since you will want about 1 plant every 3 to 4 feet, looking for plants on sale at the large garden centers would save money for paying for the short retaining wall at the bottom. Dirt would not have to be added because the dirt is slowly coming down the slope.