By JEAN McCLELLAND

For HD Media

With this long weekend offering extra time to do a 'project' one might consider starting a hillside landscaping venture. Prior to tackling this job there are a few 'heads up' strategies that might make the results more conducive to what you have envisioned.

First decide whether you want to make it a maintenance free area that looks attractive or you are willing to invest some time to make it into a blooming smorgasbord of a garden. Once you have pictured the end result in your imagination, it's a matter of getting it done. You might even put it on paper and run it by a master gardener or your local nursery for expert advice.

Most times the soil one has to deal with on a hillside is of poor quality due to topsoil being washed away over time. As you do your plantings add some good garden top soil to what is there. If you are going with a terracing concept try to retain the top soil because what is left underneath is not going to do much to nurture your plants.

Reading up on dealing with the layers of soil on a hillside could make your proposed garden more stable. In brief think of soil in terms of layers of a cake with the frosting being the topsoil and the layers below made of rock and clay. Each layer is bound to the other and when this is disturbed one could see such events as mud slides in a heavy rain. This is why it is best to choose trees and other shrubs that have deep roots in order to help those layers continue to bind together. There is more to this so do your homework on the subject.

Take a good gander at your sloping area and consider what might readily grow there and choose accordingly. If the slope is really steep it will have a hard time retaining enough water to support some plants. One could somewhat correct this by shaping soil and rocks into a well around new plants to enable water to soak into the needed areas. It is often recommended gardeners invest in a drip type of irrigation system to best water plants on a hillside.

A hillside garden doesn't have to be all plants. This is a grand opportunity to use stones, rocks and boulders to enhance one's yard. If one decides to terrace their hillside it can be done with all sorts of hard surfaces from bricks to gravel to treated lumber - the choices are unlimited. Visit a garden center, peruse magazines and study websites for ideas on how to best accomplish this.

Finally, recognize that creating any landscape feature doesn't have to be done in a day but can take many days, months or even years. Do it in small sections that are manageable for the time you have to devote to it. No use killing yourself on a project but enjoy the progression and successes as you work toward your goal of a beautifully landscaped hillside. Often it is the journey that offers self-satisfaction more than the goal.

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