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Eradicating my steep hill lawn


Joined: Nov 13, 2010
Posts: 4
Hi Everyone

First post, so please bear with me.

I live in S. Ontario with a N. facing backyard that butts up against conservation land. That's the great part.

The not so good part is that the previous owners - elderly English garden type that owned my home from the time it was built 35 yrs or so ago were into lush, weed free lawns. However the backyard consists of 3 hills with a 2 small plateaus between the hills. The lowest hill - next to the cons. land is the steepest. Impossibly steep for mowing and even my youthful sons struggle with cutting it not to mention the fact that they are now rarely available to help or cut. It's time for it to go. At least that super steep hill which is not used for any recreation purposes - it's just there and a complete pain to deal with.

Here is my idea: Lay free flattened cardboard boxes on top of the grass, wet them down, pin them down with pegs then spread a thick layer of straw on top as a mulch and to block out light to keep the grass, weeds, etc. from coming thru over the winter.

Then, in the spring I plan to spread horse manure (bought somewhat locally) for $2.50 a seed bagful , compost from my 3 full composters followed by earth bags (that I will sew and fill) to help anchor everything into place and then cut holes for specific plants in the remaining areas to grow perennials, dwarf shrubs, and add a few "homemade" rocks to the mix. The idea is to make it a non-maintainence hill that can be enjoyed from above but does not not to be mowed 

At this point my biggest challenge is how to get 20 bales of straw dropped off at my house. I dont own a truck and have emailed a Kijiji seller that is offering the straw bales for $2.30 eac.  It will be a lot of labour but should work ? and be worth it ? What say you ?

Joined: Nov 13, 2010
Posts: 4
P.S. It's either this or buying a goat because I just can't get my boys to cut the grass anymore and I cannot do it. Its just that steep.

Frustrated in Ontario but determined

Joined: May 28, 2010
Posts: 24
Location: Zone 5a (Canada)

Firstly - I'm afraid I have no idea if your plan would work. That said, it seems to me to be quite a lot of work. How big is the area?

The western part of my property is pretty much impenetrable at the moment. Thickets, water, grass and small trees. To resolve this problem we renamed it "The Wilderness", and decided to let *it* decide what it wanted to be. It looks like it is planning on reverting to forest, or maybe bog... time will tell.

We have plenty of ideas for the eastern portion of the property to keep us happy.

When you say you want to 'enjoy from above' what do you enjoy? Green? Flowers? Shapes? Smells? Wildlife? Food?

You could just leave it alone and rename it "The Alpine Meadow" and if it turns into a woodland, you can rename it again.

Zone 5a (Canada)

Joined: Nov 13, 2010
Posts: 4
Hi Ceog

The steep hill is the entire width of my city property. It is north facing and backs onto woody conservation lands...chain link fence dividing my property from the wooded area.

I dont want to let it just go 'natural' and would rather add some ground covers. shady perennials, a few low shrubs & some homemade rocks...also build a curvy step system down to the back gate for interest sake.

Further up from the steepest hill is a plateau that has an ornamental red apple tree put here by the original owners. It is workable and ideally I want to put in a Medicine Wheel garden there with tobacco, sage & sweetgrass.

As of now, I laid out carpeting & underpad that I ripped out of the house on part of the difficult hill to kill off the grass/weeds. I do believe that by discouraging growth - the rooting system from the growth will remain in place, holding the soil in place and with a new cover of mulch that I hold into place with garden bags done into squares to retain the mulch within each section should work ?
Travis Philp

Joined: Dec 28, 2009
Posts: 965
Location: ZONE 5a Lindsay Ontario Canada
Welcome to the forums Mukwah,

Sounds like there could be a lot of erosion problems with this scenario, so I'd suggest aiming for deep rooted plants, and getting as much vegetation in the ground as possible to hold the soil in place. I think that mulch alone won't do the trick. A heavy rain will likely work itself through and wash the soil downhill.

Not sure exactly how steep you're talking about so you may need to peg the cardboard down but in my experience (which is only on flat land) cardboard doesn't need to be pegged if you put enough mulch on and get it wet if possible. Maybe do a testing of a few pieces without pegs, and leave it for a few days to see if they stay in place.

Why is it that you don't want it to go natural?

I'm wondering, if you have the time to wait, you could save yourself the money on some of the straw cost by letting the existing vegetation grow, and hacking that back with a weedwhacker, raking it, and using that instead. Probably not feasible but just thought I'd put that out there.

Have you thought of swales and/or terraces?
Not sure if you know, but most carpet has a lot of toxic chemicals, which will leach into the soil via rain.
Zone 5a in Central Ontario, Canada
Willy Kerlang

Joined: Apr 29, 2011
Posts: 106
Mukwah, what did you end up doing here?  I see this original post was made last fall.  I'd be curious to know how things turned out.

I live on a hill in Nova Scotia that I have gradually turned into a series of terraced gardens.  I can post a few pics if you're interested, though they are not terribly exciting.  I have made some terraces by felling some rather scrubby pines and laying the trunks crosswise against the stumps.  Then I have layered in lots of leaves and seaweed that will eventually decompose, and have thrown a wee bit of compost on top of that and planted potatoes (a good first veggie crop when trying to establish a garden bed). 

Without pics it's hard to say, but I think if I had your property I would be inclined to gradually turn it into terraces myself.  I've been here for ten years and added one per year.  That keeps the work to a manageable level and keeps me out of trouble.  If you don't have trees, you can dig out swales that follow the hill contours and plant in the berms.  There are lots of options, but I'm curious to see what you've done since you made this post.
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