February 23, 2024

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How to Incorporate Retaining Walls into Your Landscape Design

Make an Ugly Hillside Beautiful with Retaining Walls - Mutual Materials

When most homeowners think about retaining walls, they usually think about how practical they are and their functional importance.  But, having a retaining wall in your garden can also be very attractive, with the right planning and design.

What is a Retaining Wall?

Retaining walls are structures that hold soil and plants together. Retaining walls can be made of anything, but they’re usually stone or concrete structures that support the earth on top of them. Retaining walls are often used to build terraces or create different levels for your garden’s design. Retaining walls can also be used to direct water runoff or slow down running water and erosion.

Before you Start, Make Sure the Retaining Wall is Structurally Sound

When designing your garden, make sure that any retaining wall you incorporate is structurally sound.  Retaining walls usually stand straight up, but they can also be curved or arched. Retaining walls can be made of block, brick, stone, or mortar.

If you’re not sure if the retaining wall is structurally sound, have it assessed by a professional – especially if it’s an older wall. Retaining walls are generally composed of soil and some homeowners use them as planters, so they must be able to support both. Retaining walls that are not properly constructed can cause problems like cracks in the foundation or your home, fallen soil, and plants as well as erosion over time. Retaining walls usually don’t need to be removed however, they just need to be repaired with proper materials and design.

You’ll probably have a good idea if a retaining wall is failing.  Some tell-tale signs are sinking soil, cracks in the foundation of the wall and leaning walls.

Plan for How Much Sun the Area Will Get

You’ll want to think about how much sun the area will get during different times of day, as well as throughout the year. This will determine what type of plants you select for planting.  If the area will be getting full sun, planting things that do best in shade will not work.  

Consider Drought-Resistant or Low Water-Usage Plants

You’ll also want to think about what type of plants will work in an area with limited moisture. Retaining walls are meant to sustain pressure from the soil and water, but you want to be mindful not to create a situation where too much water accumulates. Common strategies for relieving water pressure are incorporating weeping holes and proper drainage during the construction process. 

Make sure to check to see if these are present.  Retaining walls that don’t have proper drainage can cause water damage and rot. Retaining walls need drainage and good percolation of the soil to allow for both the wall’s stability and optimum plant growth.

Choose Plants with Varied Heights

As with any landscape design, incorporating plants with different heights and textures adds to the overall landscape.   Retaining walls also benefit from the addition of plants with varying heights. Retaining walls that have a good mix of lower growing and flowering plants will be much more natural-looking. Retaining walls usually aren’t very high so you’ll want to add other elements like taller trees, flower beds, or arbors for a well-balanced design.

Mix it Up With the Plant Selection

Mix up flowering plants with ones that don’t flower.  Garden designs benefit from pops of color.  Mixing the types of plants ensures that color remains throughout the year.  

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Retaining walls are structures of different types used to support soil and to prevent erosion. Retaining walls are often used in landscaping to make different levels or terraces for a garden design. To successfully incorporate a retaining wall into your landscape design, you should make sure the retaining wall is structurally sound and consider how much sunlight it will get. You’ll also want to plant your new landscaping with plants that do well in dry climates and with varying heights.

These are just a few of the things to consider when incorporating a retaining wall into your landscape design. Make sure that you follow proper building guidelines, as well as the guidelines for garden design to ensure that you end up with a beautiful new addition to your home’s landscaping!

San Diego Business Spotlight 

Retaining Wall Pros of San Diego

1843 Adams Ave.

San Diego, CA 92116 


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