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Front garden all made up with privacy screen
You can transform a sloping backyard into a garden space. All it takes is a little imagination!

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When horticulturist Chloe Thomson and her husband Gerard first purchased their home, the sloping backyard was bare and inhospitable. With outsourcing costs high and no access for machinery, the couple nutted out solutions for a garden makeover they could complete over time. After much hard work, the rear garden is now a family oasis, where useful and attractive goodies flourish in raised garden beds and chooks roam freely.

Person standing in a greenhouse in garden

Set realistic goals

Improving the function of the home’s backyard (located in Melbourne’s northern outskirts) was the first priority. “It was a dust bowl with a couple of vegie boxes – not lovely or practical,” says Chloe.

She and Gerard discussed a rough concept and then worked on one garden project at a time. They spent a few weekends carving wide steps out of the rocky soil but weren’t precious about time spent on the task. “It was just the two of us digging – sometimes we could dedicate a full weekend to the garden and other times we skipped it,” says Chloe. “We were realistic about what we could achieve.”

Steps built into natural garden slope with steel edging and pebble filling

Get practical

Having to cart in materials by hand meant the couple had to be selective in their choices. “Concrete and heavy timber retaining walls were out of the question,” says Chloe.

They opted for Corten steel edging around the steps and along paths. “It’s lightweight, easy to install and perfect for what we needed.”

Along the back boundary, they built a series of gabion baskets to act as retaining walls. “We filled them with rubble from around the backyard, but we saved the good-looking rocks for the front of the cage,” Chloe says.

The raised vegetable garden beds were constructed from recycled apple crates.

Shot of garden with bushes in foreground and tree in background

Mix and match

The main aim of the garden design was to maximise and enhance the outdoor space. Steps lead up to an inviting patch of lawn – with the gabion walls at the back doubling as a long bench – and a glasshouse made with recycled doors and windows. A mix of native plants and exotic ones soften hardscaping features and fulfil Chloe’s desire for flowers. “My more fickle and precious plants are near the house where the tap is, while the hardier specimens are at the back,” she says.

Close up shot of white and pink flowers

Stay flexible

While the couple had an overall vision for their sloping garden, nothing was fixed and they avoided becoming set on certain garden design ideas or concepts. “We finished a section then decided what to do next,” says Chloe. “We knew we needed paths and garden beds, and they needed to fit within the steep sloping site.”

This evolving process led to pleasing results. “Instead of continuing with steps made from Corten steel edging, we used existing red gum sleepers at the point where the path turns a corner,” says Chloe. “Now there’s a lovely visual contrast of rustic steel and timber along the path.”

If you’re embarking on a lengthy D.I.Y. garden project, stage tasks so you can maintain momentum. “Break it down into small, achievable projects that you can see out from start to finish,” suggests Chloe. “Start with an area you see or want to use on a daily basis, like a garden by the front door or a vegie patch near the back door.”

Metal, ornamental decoration in the middle of bushes and trees

Keep in mind…

  • Safety tip: Always wear the appropriate safety equipment (safety glasses, gloves, and a mask, for example) and always follow the instructions for the product or equipment. Always store products out of the reach of children and pets.
  • After applying fertiliser to edible plants, delay harvesting for a few days and rinse well before cooking and eating.
  • Before starting any project, you should consider health and safety risks and seek professional advice where needed.

Looking for the right foliage to add to your garden?

Check out our range of outdoor plants available online or in-store.

Some products are not available at all Bunnings stores, but may be ordered.


Photo Credit: Alex Reinders

Health & Safety

Asbestos, lead-based paints and copper chromium arsenic (CCA) treated timber are health hazards you need to look out for when renovating older homes. These substances can easily be disturbed when renovating and exposure to them can cause a range of life-threatening diseases and conditions including cancer. For information on the dangers of asbestos, lead-based paint and CCA treated timber and tips for dealing with these materials contact your local council's Environmental Health Officer or visit our Health & Safety page.

When following our advice in our D.I.Y. videos, make sure you use all equipment, including PPE, safely by following the manufacturer’s instructions. Check that the equipment is suitable for the task and that PPE fits properly. If you are unsure, hire an expert to do the job or talk to a Bunnings Team Member.