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Beginner looking for ideas on tiered needed

please excuse my lack of knowledge, I have no idea about gardening and have only ever had concrete yards growing up.

I have tiered beds(i think this is what they are called) leading down into my back garden. They aren't very safe for my kids and I would like to change them on a budget. I don't mind doing work bit by bit over time but I just don't know where to start, we also have a problem with horsetail in these beds. 
The beds are currently like slate style rocks to hold it up but these are all loose and had actually started to fall when we moved in.

Ideally I would like to get rid of the 2 lower beds on each side to make a raised patio style area and I would like to change the steps to something easier for my kids and dog or maybe somehow have a ramp of some sort.
I have attached pictures of the current mess it is in, any ideas/inspiration is very much appreciated.


  • Blue OnionBlue Onion Posts: 2,953
    How much are you willing to spend?  Can you bring loads of top soil in?

    If you are on a limited budget, consider putting a ramp path up the left hand side of the second picture, and then plant up the beds so they are full of tough kid/pet friendly perennials.  They will stay off them if they are full of large plants overhanging the edges.  

    Or maybe you're loaded, and the sky is the limit?  Wider stairs and sloping grass on either side.    
    Utah, USA.
  • NollieNollie Posts: 7,052
    I would say you don’t need both steps and a ramp, but which is safer? A ramp that kids might be tempted to career down on skateboards or other wheeled appendages or properly levelled steps with a handrail??  

    Is your raised patio idea something that you really want because you want to extend outdoor dining space, for example, or is it just a way of dealing with the crumbling beds? The former will involve a fair bit of excavation and building so could be quite costly, the latter would be more cost effective, by simply shoring up the front of the beds to help retain the soil and stop gravity exerting it’s pull. As Blue Onion says, once they are full of plants, which will also help hold everything together, the kids won’t go there and you could always add a railing at the top to prevent any accidental tumbles.

    if your not much of a gardner, choose easy-care shrubs that suit your soil conditions and once established they will pretty much look after themselves. If you are a keen gardener, shame to lose the beds to concrete! There was some really good advice on getting rid of marestail on a recent post headed ‘lime loving plants’ or similar.
    Mountainous Northern Catalunya, Spain. Hot summers, cold winters.
  • raisingirlraisingirl Posts: 6,651
    Not knowing what your budget is, my immediate suggestion for a DIY approach would be to build a railway sleeper wall in front of the lowest slate wall first. An option when you're doing it would be to build new, regular (.e. safer) steps with the sleepers on the far left as you look up the bank and fill in the lowest section of rickety steps, level that lowest terrace, clear the weeds, plant up the front edge with things to discourage kids/dog from plunging off the edge and make a path along the back from the middle steps to the new ones.
    Then next year do the same again for the middle wall, and again make new steps to one side of the existing so the full flight is not a straight run but a slow zig zag.
    Year 3 do the top one.
    You can make the steps really wide to make them safer - something like this (stolen off the interweb - not my garden)

    If you can afford it, you could make either the first or the second sleeper wall high enough to in-fill the terrace above, but to do that the walls will be quite high retaining structures and you'd need someone who understands how to make one of those safe to help you, especially as I think your house is at the top of the slope (can't tell from the photos how close). At their current height - probably 3 or 4 sleepers maximum - it's a DIY project, but at twice that (or more) it becomes more serious construction. If you want to introduce hand rails along the edges, you also need to get proper advice and help, as they have to be a certain height and able to take a specific load.

    “Light thinks it travels faster than anything but it is wrong. No matter how fast light travels, it finds the darkness has always got there first” 
  • hogweedhogweed Posts: 4,053
    Unless you are very handy or have a lot of building knowledge, I don't think this is a DIY project. Building retaining walls is a skilled job and not one that can be botched. Nor, from a safety angle, is it one that can be done over time. 
    My advice would be to repair what is there, teach the children to stay off the walls, and save up for a professional job. 
    'Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement' - Helen Keller
  • Lizzie27Lizzie27 Posts: 11,180
    I think Hogweed is right.
    North East Somerset - Clay soil over limestone
  • This is very similar to the garden we've inherited. We have so far terraced the top bit,enough room for table chairs,bench and flower pots,steps down like yours,and I've started building up to the terrace with a big rockery each side.Got some huge rocks to retain the soil,I'm not sticking to alpines,just putting in Lavenders,Salvias and Penstemons,with small conifers. We also plan a slope at the side,in case the steps get a bit much with hands full! Not keen on rails!
    The whole truth is an instrument that can only be played by an expert.
  • purplerallimpurplerallim Posts: 4,843
    A big building job there . My suggestion is to put a decking extension to the top level out over one side of the steps full width of beds. The other side of the steps start a switch back slope using driven in wood posts and boards to hold soil/gravel slopes however steep you wish with rails to stop little ones from falling. At grass level or even raised to height of lower bed put in another decking. Lots of work/ideas there for you. Good luck.
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