How We Transformed Our Sloped Backyard on a Budget

Landscaping a slope on a budget poses a unique challenge in creating an outdoor space you love. The good news is you can still have an enjoyable backyard space even on a tight budget!

In this post, I’m so excited to reveal our “phase 1” outdoor transformation and how we are slowly landscaping a slope on a budget while incorporating aesthetic touches to give our yard the Antique European vibe we love!

Our Hillside Backyard Transformation

yardzen before and after

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Let’s not forget where we started. This project was a long time coming and we spent a few years discussing how much we disliked the previous backyard and how much we longed to have a great entertaining space outside!

landscaping a slope on a budget

This is how our backyard looked before starting this project. We had a very steep slope going up towards the fence on the back of the property. There were also several other sloped areas and relatively no flat areas. I feel like pictures don’t do this slope justice. It’s pretty steep! 

landscaping a slope on a budget

Towards the back of our yard, there is a mini “forest” as we like to call it and that area was not landscaped and no grass grew due to the poor sunlight. There were also many large areas of soil erosion from the poor drainage throughout the backyard.

landscaping a slope on a budget

The forest area is where our kids like to play. It was full of brush, and stumps and had a janky old fort the previous owners had left.

old deck makeover

Our deck was decent when we first moved in, but 2 years into living here the paint was peeling and some of the boards showed signs of wear. Right off the deck was the lowest point of the yard where water tended to pool. Our kids had the time of their life digging mud-holes for 2 years but I knew it had to change because it looked ROUGH.

Creating a Wishlist for our Backyard Makeover

The absolute first step when designing ANY space is to create a wish list. Our lists always include practical functionality and design/style. For our backyard, I knew the first and most important issue to address was the slope and lack of any usable flat area. This can be a HUGE hurdle to overcome but thankfully there are options!

Hillside Landscaping Ideas To Utilize Your Sloped Yard

yardzen plans

When you have a very sloped backyard and are trying to create a flatter, usable space for your family, there are a few options available and each has pros and cons. Unfortunately, most of them can be pricey, so it’s important to prioritize what is really important to you and your family! Here are a few ideas to transform your sloped yard:

Install a Retaining Wall

DIY retaining wall

Creating a retaining wall or a tiered retaining wall is a great option for a sloped yard because it can help create a flat area. Depending on how steep your hill is, you may only need a small wall to push out the area of your yard you want to be flattened.

Retaining walls are very difficult to DIY. If you don’t have a construction background or your yard has major drainage issues I HIGHLY recommend hiring out. This is ultimately what we decided to do. You don’t want to pay a bunch of money and end up with a flooded house. 

Retaining walls can be created with a variety of materials such as large rocks, railroad ties, concrete blocks, stone slabs, and even cinder blocks. For our yard, we opted to use a natural-looking stone that meshed well with our patio. But more on that later…

Add a Sloping Garden

Never underestimate how much landscaping a slope on a budget can disguise even the ugliest of yards. Planting a variety of perennials and evergreen plants on a sloped area can really transform your yard.

There are so many options for planting a sloped flower garden. You can incorporate native plants, ornamental grasses, groundcover plants, and a hillside flower bed.

Those who have steeper slopes in their backyard may find it a real challenge to get plants to grow well with such a high level of water runoff. This is a place for you to get super creative. You could try adding a series of tiered flower beds to create some flatter spaces. I’ve seen people incorporate wooden boxes as garden beds that double as tiered steps up the side of the hill. 

Really, there are so many options for a hillside garden and if you can be creative, odds are there is a way to do it!

Utilize Different Levels of Your Yard

This is a big one. Your yard should serve its purpose and you should use it in the way you see fit! Think about what functions you want your yard to serve and create spaces on the various elevations that meet your needs.

As an example: For our yard, I really wanted it to be a place we could:

  • eat dinner outside
  • relax by the fire
  • play with our kids

Since our yard has multiple elevations, I decided we could utilize the “woods” area as a play area for our kids, the lower sloped areas down by our deck could be transformed into seating/entertainment, and the highest level of the yard was a great location for a rustic firepit surrounded by adorndike chairs.

Why We Ultimately Hired Professionals To Help With Our Sloped Yard Transformation:

I don’t know about you, but I’m not a horticultural expert and this was really our first home that we ever had the ability to create landscaping/hardscaping in. I knew for sure some things that I wanted for our yard but I also lacked the vision to say what I wanted with certainty.

yardzen vs reality

My husband and I mulled it over for a while but ultimately we decided to hire a professional landscape designer to create CAD designs for our yard. We chose to do these plans with Yardzen.

I have ZERO regrets about paying for a landscape package with Yardzen. They really transformed my original vision and made it into something even more beautiful!

honest review of yardzen
Yardzen Review

I wrote a complete post about Yardzen HERE and I also have a discount code if you buy through my link HERE!

Phase 1: Sloped Backyard Makeover Reveal

This year our focus was all about creating a functional patio space, updating the deck a bit, adding some fun lighting, and creating a safe play area for our kids. Landscaping a slope on a budget has been a real challenge BUT, here is how everything has turned out so far!

Antique Brick Paver Patio

My inspiration for the patio was old-world European/ English garden vibes with just a dash of French and Tuscan influence. Oh, also I live in the Raleigh suburbs… LOL.

landscaping a slope on a budget

I really wanted to get authentic, antique bricks that would be weathered and multi-colored and fantastic but after speaking with several contractors, that style of brick was several thousands of dollars more than a traditional paver. It also was less safe for kids when it was wet.

We had the opportunity to visit a brickyard and select our brick pavers in person. There weren’t a ton of options with this brickyard but it was the fastest, easiest, good-quality bricks in our area.

We ultimately chose the Holland Savannah brick pavers by Belgard. These bricks are a gorgeous neutral shade that patinas into a reddish tan hue over time. They were also highly reviewed and rated as being extremely durable and slip-resistant.

herringbone pattern patio

The herringbone patio was something we decided to hire out. Due to the crazy sloping/drainage issues in our yard, we simply didn’t feel it was possible for us as amateur DIY’ers to create a perfectly graded patio.

We were able to get the old-world look I wanted by having the bricks laid in a herringbone pattern. I’m obsessed with it! It’s so different than the ultra-sleek, modern styles a lot of people are doing and I’m obsessed.

I have ZERO regrets. Our contractor was a newer company but had great reviews and the price was great. They did such a good job and finished within 4 days!

antique european patio design

In order to get the square footage we wanted for the patio, our contractor recommended installing 2 sections of retaining wall where we had to “chop in” to the sloped area. Adding these retaining wall sections was obviously additional charges from just a straightforward patio but absolutely necessary to get a flat area.

DIY Harlequin Painted Deck

Our chipped and peeling deck HAD to be repainted. We got a quote for replacing the whole thing and it was simply not an option this year. SO, paint it was!

The cool thing about painting a deck that you plan to replace in a year or two is that I was able to convince my husband to let me paint a harlequin pattern on the deck!

full yard makeover

I’m in love with how it turned out. It really odes to France and gives the whole yard a vintage, old-fashioned vibe.

checkerboard deck DIY

Read all about our DIY Harlequin painted Deck HERE.

Aesthetic Kids Play Area

Probably the most important aspect of our yard is our new, beautiful swingset and play area. One of my greatest dreams has been to have a beautiful play area for our sweet kiddos and we finally have it!

backyard discovery kids playground

I searched and read reviews on a million swing sets and ultimately went with the Eagles Nest playset by Backyard Discovery. I wanted something that was aesthetically beautiful but not going to break the budget.

eagles nest playground

This isn’t a custom swing set but it had a substantial “fort” area + a good range of swings, slide + climbing wall. It also fits perfectly in our elevated yard. We also used a brick border paver to create some division between the grass and the natural area and ordered a bulk mulch shipment to mulch around the swingset.

We want to mulch the entire natural area at some point but for now, we have the most important area protected.

Shop Our Swingset:

Not Breaking The Budget 101:

patio and deck makeover

Ok, so back to that budget piece…

HOW can you get the backyard of your dreams without paying a fortune? Don’t get me wrong, this was a pricey project for us but after chatting with other people in our neighborhood, I know we did this at a phenomenal price. Keep reading for my top tips for landscaping a slope on a budget!

Top Tips for Landscaping a Slope on a Budget

  1. If you can’t DIY your patio, get several quotes and read reviews! We were able to find a small company that was newer. Our contractor was eager to do a great job and gave us a lower price due to being a newer company. We could not be happier!
  2. Paint your deck yourself! Ok, this was time-consuming and took me actually about two weeks between naps and rainstorms BUT I know several people who paid thousands just to have the deck PAINTED! I was not having that, so we painted it ourselves!
  3. Do the landscape yourself! Look, I know I’m not a professional landscaper. But my hope is that as it grows and I add more plants, I’ll be able to create the layered, overgrown English cottage garden of my dreams! I sourced my plants through a local greenhouse, Lowes, and Fast Growing Trees. Landscaping a slope on a budget can become quite pricey so be patient and add more plants as you go.

This beautiful sloped backyard transformation cost us approximately: $22,000.00

landscaping a slope on a budget
  • Patio- 17K
  • Deck project- $200
  • Landscape- $1,500
  • Swingset- $3,000.00
  • Mulch/Brick Border- $500

We will eventually add more furniture, more plants, and hopefully a firepit table but for now, we are very happy with this renovation.

Note: Obviously this amount may be way too high for some people and seem really low to others. Budgets are so subjective, but I wanted to share our actual numbers in full transparency to help people understand how much this type of project can cost! For us personally, it was about 1.5 years of saving up so we are very happy with the results.

Our Sloped Yard Makeover:

Here are some BEFORE & AFTER pictures of our sloped yard makeover.

landscaping a slope on a budget
landscaping a slope on a budget

We are over the moon happy with how our yard has transformed and can’t wait to keep adding more. Landscaping a slope on a budget is definitely a challenge but there are still so many options to create an aesthetically beautiful yard!

More of Our Experiences Landscaping A Slope on a Budget

landscaping a slope on a budget
landscaping a slope on a budget
landscaping a slope on a budget

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