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6 Easy Sloped Backyard Ideas on a Budget (Garden, Playground)

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Check out the best sloped backyard ideas on a budget and learn how to create a beautiful outdoor space without breaking the bank! Learn the secrets behind our yard makeover that not only saved us money but also resulted in stunning results.

My main goal the first summer we lived in our house was to get our sloped backyard fully landscaped so we could enjoy it for at least a few weeks.

Having never had a backyard before (let alone a sloped yard), I had NO IDEA how much landscaping would cost.

The first bid we got came in at $16,000! There was no way we could drop 16 grand on our yard, so I knew we needed to look at a few other options.

The second bid we got for our sloping yard came in around $6000 and that was just for the lower level of our backyard and didn’t include sod!

(Because our backyard is sloped, we actually ended up with a tiered yard! More on that below).

$6000 for only half of our yard didn’t sit well with me either, so we had to get even MORE creative than I thought.

Here’s how we landscaped our yard for way less than those bids just by doing some of it ourselves.

Pinterest graphic with text that reads "the best budget friendly sloped backyard ideas."

How do you build a good backyard on a budget?

A mother sits with her children on large boulders in her backyard.

Our situation is a little unique because our builder was required to landscape our front yard as part of our contract so we actually saved a lot of money there.

We were originally told that we would have to landscape our side yard as well, so we were looking at an even bigger cost than we originally had planned on.

There were lots of little blessings for us along the way, and it turned out that we didn’t have to landscape our side yard and the builder paid to do it!

Our lot size is about a quarter of an acre and we have the biggest yard in our neighborhood, so saving anywhere we could was my main objective. 

When the landscapers were working on our front yard, I just went out one day and asked if they could give me a quote for the backyard.

They did our grass, mulch, and sprinkler system for $2100! That was a fraction of the cost of the first two bids.

Here are several ways to build out a backyard on a budget, no matter what shape or grading it is:

1. Talk to as many people as you can until you get the right price.

I definitely didn’t want to have our backyard done poorly, but I also knew that $6000 not including sod was pretty outrageous.

I had already researched the cost of sod, so I had a guess of what it would cost to do it ourselves.

Plus, the builder had already commissioned this landscaper to do several houses, so I knew that they could be trusted.

2. If your builder is installing your front yard, talk with the actual workers doing the landscaping to see what their estimates come in at.

Some of those workers have businesses on the side and will charge you way less than going through an actual company, but will still do the same great work.

3. See if the company will give you a discount for paying cash.

We paid cash for all of the work that we hired out for and one of the landscapers gave us a discount because of it!

4. Consider talking with your builder (if you have a new home) to see who they can put you in contact with and what they can do for you.

We did this to finish our rock wall and saved big $$$ by just asking our builder to provide us with the natural stone. It never hurts to ask!

5. Know what to hire out and what to do yourself.

I knew that we would be doing the bulk of our landscaping while I was pregnant, so I wasn’t as ambitious as I probably would have been not pregnant.

That being said, I knew what was important to me to have done right.

I didn’t want to touch the sprinkler system, stone wall, or grading so we hired that out!

We had neighbors who are building a sloped backyard retaining wall themselves and after watching the landscapers who built ours…I think they’re pretty crazy!

I just don’t know anything about that type of landscaping so I wanted to leave it to someone who did.

However, I was totally willing to lay sod, build garden boxes for a vegetable garden, and plant roses because I knew that was something I could handle.

Thankfully I didn’t have to lay any sod, but if we needed to save money, we would have.

In the long run, I knew that paying someone to do the more difficult landscaping would actually SAVE us money because we wouldn’t have to deal with shoddy work down the road.

So just keep that in mind when you’re looking at costs.

Sloped Backyard Ideas on a Budget

Now let’s jump into WHAT we actually did in our sloped yard and HOW we did it!

I mentioned this above, but our lot is sloped.

Our backyard was a big mess when we moved in.

Just look at all of that mud, rock, and tumbleweed. SMH.

We definitely lucked out because our builder installed part of our rock wall for us before we moved in. And they did the most difficult section that required an engineer to construct.

The rock that they put in was just a type of retaining wall to prevent soil erosion, but it actually ended up working perfectly for a full rock wall.

I agonized and researched how to landscape our sloped yard for weeks before we moved in because I honestly had no idea what to do.

Everyone I know has a flat, square/rectangle lot, and here we were stuck with a rhombus-looking yard with a steep slope.

I really needed backyard ideas to fit our specific needs and insight into what landscaping a sloped backyard really entails.

1. Rock wall with stone steps

It wasn’t until one of the landscapers we got a quote from suggested carrying the rock all along the yard and adding steps in the middle that I knew that’s how I wanted our yard to look.

It was an awesome backyard layout idea and I never would have thought of it without talking to him.

Terracing a sloped backyard to create access to flat areas is such an attractive option that’s great for now and for re-sale (if we move again).

If you want to enjoy your yard, it’s important to create as many flat surfaces and open space as possible.

Unfinished dirt landscaping with large boulders to create a tiered backyard.

We also talked with our builder and we were able to get all of the rest of the stone for our rock wall for FREE!

They were digging up the large rocks from other homesites and had to pay to haul them away. So we were actually saving the builder money by using the stones.

They even connected us with the landscapers who had built other rock walls in the community and we just paid for labor.

Boulders create tiered landscaping in a backyard with plants and a wood playhouse.
Rock stairs leading up to the second tier of a sloped backyard.

I love how our wall turned out and think it was the perfect solution for our sloped backyard.

If you need easy backyard ideas for a sloped yard, consider adding a rock wall with steps to break up the different levels, but still give easy access to both levels.

It’s also a great focal point and the perfect spot for pictures.

As far as the rest of the backyard went, we had to get a little creative.

I knew I didn’t want any grass on our upper level at all.

I didn’t want to deal with sprinklers or water features up there (mostly to keep water from flowing down the hill into our foundation).

Also because I wanted to save my husband from having to haul the lawnmower up there and mowing an uneven space.

2. No grass on the upper level

We looked at a few different material options but ended up using mulch on the majority of our upper level.

We saved a lot of money upfront because sod and sprinklers definitely would have cost more.

Plus we’re saving money every month on what we would have spent watering the grass up there.

Dark mulch landscaping with stepping stones on the top tier of a sloped backyard.

Skip the grass and use mulch or wood chips instead! I honestly have never seen a yard with as much mulch as we have but I actually think it’s a great idea.

I really like the contrast between the dark-colored mulch and our light rocks.

Plus, the mulch is a great natural weed barrier so it will hopefully lead to less weeding for us. When the weeds do pop through, it’s easy to see them against the mulch.

No grass on the upper tier also allowed us to have adequate space for our planter boxes and avoid a sloping garden.

3. Break up the space with gravel pads

Another issue we had to work around was a huge pile of gravel left on our lot when we moved in.

At first, we were going to let our builder haul it away, but then we decided it would be a great way to break up some of the mulch so we wanted to put it to good use.

An unfinished backyard with a dirt hill and landscaping materials.

We ended up using the gravel as a base for our DIY fire pit area and for our DIY paver patio.

Gravel works great for cheap backyard patio ideas.

It saved us so much money on materials! And it looks great with the concrete pavers.

However, moving the gravel was another story. That was the most difficult part of our whole yard.

Gravel and dark mulch landscaping with cement stepping stones in front of a stone fence.

We also had lots of gravel left over that we gave to our neighbor because he was willing to haul it away. So check with your neighbors, friends, and family to see if they have any leftover landscaping materials that they may give you for free or cheap if you’re willing to transport it yourself.

DIY Backyard Ideas

Overall, we saved a ton of money on our sloped yard because we did about half of the work ourselves.

This included:

4. Building our own garden beds.

5. Installing all of the landscape material on our upper level.

6. Planting all of the trees and roses ourselves.

We followed the same building plans for our garden boxes, fire pit seating area, and sandbox. The plans for these wooden boxes worked great for our backyard transformations on a budget.

A fire pit with gravel and a wooden bench under string lights in a backyard with a stone fence.
Raised bed planter boxes on the top tier of a sloped backyard.
A small wooden playhouse in a backyard with gravel and surrounded by dark mulch.

We also saved a lot of money by installing all of the natural materials in our upper level ourselves.

Our landscapers delivered the mulch, topsoil, and sand for us at their discounted price and we told them we would take care of the installation. Check with your landscaper to see if they’ll do the same!

We saved about $400 doing it this way. Sure it took us about a week to rake out all of the mulch and transport the sand and topsoil, but we had family help us and we were able to use the savings to purchase our small trees and flowers!

People working on a backyard landscaping project with piles of dirt, mulch, and wheelbarrows.

I checked several different nurseries for the trees and roses I wanted for our flower garden, and I ended up finding the best price at our local Home Depot.

Just the roses at our local nursery would have been $300 for our garden design, but we spent a little over $200 at Home Depot on all of our plants.

Landscaping and plants in a backyard with dark mulch and rocks.
Backyard landscaping with much and rock with plants and a stone fence.

Honestly, they looked a lot better than the ones in the nurseries and they have a 1-year guarantee, so I felt pretty good investing our money in trees and flowers from Home Depot.

Planting them was a breeze because our landscaper pre-dug the holes for us when they were installing our drip line.

See if your landscaper will include pre-dug holes for your flower beds as part of your quote to save yourself from having to dig through rocky, hard soil. It would have taken us days to do that ourselves! 

How Much We Spent

In total, we spent about $6500 on our backyard!

My original goal was $5000, but I realize now that wasn’t enough to cover the space we have. But $6500 is by far less than the first two bids we got, so I’m pretty happy about that!

Also note, that number does not include a fence…which we plan to get in the next year or so. Fencing our yard will probably be another $2000-$3000 so just keep that in mind if you’re in a new neighborhood like us.

We landscaped our sloped backyard for such a great price because we worked with our builder and their landscaper, we didn’t do grass in our whole yard, we stuck with simple backyard landscaping and we DIY’d several aspects.

Of course, our backyard doesn’t look as amazing as it would if we had $16,000 to spend on it or if we were landscape architects, but I’ve gotten several compliments on it and it feels functional for our family; which makes me happy!

Considering our budget, our backyard makeover before and after is pretty impressive if I do say so myself!

We’ve loved being able to spend family time outside and are so glad we saved all that money. Make a list of your must-haves for your yard and be willing to get creative for the rest!

A backyard retaining wall made from large boulders and green grass.

Backyard Update

We’ve loved our sloping backyard for several years now. Here’s a peek into how it’s held up and what it looks like today.

Our plants have grown a lot more and we have an updated play area for the kids with a swing set we painted white.

We also extended our patio so we could add some outdoor furniture with an umbrella and string lights.

But, the layout and landscaping are all the same!

We love our outdoor space and are so proud of the work we did to get it here.

We hope this post gives you the inspiration to create your own backyard oasis.

How do you slow erosion on steep slopes?

Slowing erosion on steep slopes is crucial to prevent soil loss and maintain the stability of the slope. Here are some effective measures to help control erosion on steep slopes:

1. Retaining Walls: Constructing retaining walls can help support the slope and prevent soil movement. These walls can be made of various materials such as concrete blocks, timber, or gabions (wire baskets filled with stones).

2. Terracing: Creating terraces or steps on the slope helps to break up the slope length, reducing the flow of water and preventing soil erosion. Terracing involves cutting into the slope and creating leveled areas where vegetation can be established.

3. Planting Vegetation: Vegetation plays a crucial role in erosion control. Planting ground cover, grasses, shrubs, and trees helps stabilize the soil with their roots, reducing surface runoff and erosion. Choose plants that have strong root systems and are suitable for the specific climate and soil conditions.

4. Erosion Control Blankets/Mats: These blankets or mats, made of organic or synthetic materials, can be placed on the slope to stabilize the soil and promote vegetation growth. They help prevent soil erosion while allowing seeds to germinate and establish vegetation.

5. Mulching: Applying a layer of mulch, such as straw, wood chips, or shredded leaves, on the slope helps protect the soil from raindrop impact, minimizes surface runoff, and enhances water infiltration. Mulch also provides a favorable environment for seed germination and plant growth.

6. Hydroseeding: Hydroseeding involves spraying a mixture of seed, mulch, fertilizer, and water onto the slope. This method promotes vegetation growth, prevents erosion, and improves soil stability.

7. Erosion Control Matting/Netting: Installing erosion control matting or netting made of natural or synthetic materials helps stabilize the soil and prevent erosion until vegetation becomes established. These materials help retain moisture and protect seedlings from wind and water erosion.

8. Drainage Systems: Properly designed drainage systems, such as French drains, swales, or channeling systems, can divert excess water away from the slope, reducing its erosive force.

9. Rock Check Dams: Constructing rock check dams across the slope helps slow down water flow, reducing erosion. These dams are created by placing rocks or boulders across the slope, creating small barriers that trap sediment and encourage water infiltration.

How should you landscape a steep slope for beauty and low maintenance?

Landscaping a steep slope for beauty and low maintenance requires thoughtful planning and consideration. Here are some tips to help you achieve an aesthetically pleasing and low-maintenance landscape on a steep slope:

1. Retaining Walls and Terraces: Constructing retaining walls or creating terraced levels can add both functionality and beauty to the slope. These structures help control erosion, provide flat or gently sloping areas for planting, and create visually appealing layers.

2. Select Low-Maintenance Plants: Choose plants that are well-suited for the slope’s conditions, such as drought-tolerant species, native plants, or ground covers with spreading habits. These plants typically require less watering, pruning, and maintenance once established.

3. Mulching and Ground Covers: Apply a layer of mulch or utilize ground covers to reduce weed growth, retain moisture, and protect the soil from erosion. Mulch can be made from organic materials like wood chips or bark, while ground covers like creeping thyme or vinca provide attractive and low-maintenance coverage.

4. Strategic Plant Placement: Plan the placement of plants based on their growth habits and water requirements. Consider planting taller or larger shrubs and trees on the upper sections of the slope to help stabilize the soil, provide shade, and reduce erosion. Place smaller plants or ground covers on the lower sections for visual appeal and to prevent soil erosion.

5. Rock Gardens and Boulders: Incorporate natural rock formations, boulders, or rock gardens into the landscape design. These elements add texture, visual interest, and help prevent erosion. Select rocks that complement the slope’s aesthetics and consider incorporating native plants among the rocks for a natural look.

6. Mulch Pits and Drip Irrigation: To conserve water and minimize maintenance, create mulch pits around plants and use drip irrigation systems. Mulch pits help retain moisture, reduce weed growth, and direct water to the plant roots. Drip irrigation delivers water directly to the plants, minimizing wastage and reducing the need for manual watering.

7. Pathways and Steps: Install pathways or steps on the slope to create access and make maintenance tasks easier. Use materials like natural stone, pavers, or gravel to blend with the surrounding landscape and provide stability and safety while navigating the slope.

8. Low-Maintenance Hardscapes: Incorporate low-maintenance hardscape features like decorative rocks, dry creek beds, or landscape lighting. These elements can enhance the visual appeal, require minimal maintenance, and provide structure to the landscape.

9. Proper Drainage: Ensure proper drainage systems are in place to prevent water runoff and soil erosion. Implement swales, French drains, or other drainage techniques to direct water away from the slope and protect the plants and soil.

Want More?

Looking for more great homeowner tips and budget-friendly ideas? Check out these 9 easy tasks that should be on every new homeowner checklist.

Your Turn

If you have any questions about our sloped backyard makeover or more great sloped backyard ideas on a budget, feel free to ask in the comments below. 

Pinterest graphic with text and before and after of sloped backyard.