Growing Vegetables on a Back Yard Hill

Hillside gardens pose a challenge, but can be fruitful with adequate erosion control.
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You don’t need a dedicated acre of flat land to grow your own vegetables. A home garden can be created in spaces such as pottery on the patio, window boxes or vertical growing systems. For another option, take advantage of what may otherwise be unused space -- a backyard hillside or slope. This will not only enhance your view, but will provide you with fresh produce to harvest from your own garden.

Site Requirements

No matter what you provide in the way of growing medium, irrigation and care, your garden won't be able to succeed without the proper amount of sunlight. Vegetables that produce fruit -- tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, etc. -- require as much sun as possible, with a six-hour minimum. Leaf and root vegetables such as lettuce and carrots do well with less sun. (See Reference 6)

Creating Terraces

Terracing your hillside provides for a more even ground surface on which to work and allows you to better manage irrigation. Depending on the pitch of your slope, you may want to consider hiring a professional contractor or engineer to evaluate the feasibility of cutting terraces. Factors such as whether the slope is naturally formed or created with fill dirt, plus the soil composition itself – its sand, clay and loam content, for example – can all play a part in a hillside’s stability. (See References 2 and 6)

Selecting Planting Beds

Once you've determined that you can safely terrace your hillside, you might choose to create a sweeping path that pauses in spots where you place old wine barrels that you have set for planting. Or you could build raised containers of a rectangular or square shape (whatever best suits your space) for each terrace level. The raised beds can be constructed of rocks, bricks and/or rot-resistant wood like cedar. Arsenic in the form of chromated copper arsenate, or CCA, was at one time used for pressure-treated lumber as a wood preservative, but its use should be avoided, as you don't want the chemicals to leach into the soil -- the most important component of any garden. (See References 3 and 7)


Determine your irrigation method before filling the beds or containers with soil. A simple drip system can be created to use only as much water as is needed and apply it at a slow, absorbable rate. This technique also helps to prevent runoff and greatly reduces evaporation, which can occur with overhead sprays. Planting lower-water-need vegetables such as tomato, bean, cucumber, squash, eggplant, capsicum, zucchini and pumpkin also reduces the amount of water necessary. Seed packages have information regarding water needs and spacing for the plant; bedding plants in pony packs usually also carry planting and cultivation information. Cornell University's Vegetable Growing Guide also provides a search feature to explore the needs of specific vegetables. (See References 1, 4 and 5)

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