How to Build Garden Boxes on a Hill (for dummies like me)

We recently moved, and this is our first Spring in our new home. We rented before, so I was really excited to finally have garden space. The only problem is that our house backs onto a massive hill!

I decided to put tiered garden boxes on the hillside, but I really had no idea how to accomplish this. Pinterest gave me some good inspiration, but I couldn’t find step by step instructions anywhere–at least ones that seemed doable for an inexperienced landscaper like myself. A few sites like this one and this graphic helped a bit, but I mostly made my own plan. Here’s how we did it:

Step 1- Measure your hillside and decide how many boxes you want and how big each will be. If you are putting these boxes into a pretty steep hill, like us, you will probably want to keep your boxes to about 2-3 ft deep. I decided to put in 3 boxes that were each 3′ x 3′.

Step 2- Buy materials for your boxes. I bought cedar planks that could be used for fencing. Cedar is a good durable wood that will not rot as quickly as many other types. I also bought some 2x2s to use in the corners of the cedar planks to hold boxes together. Then I bought some cheap wood strips to use as supporting stakes. Here is a list of exactly what I bought and the measurements:
• 9 Cedar Planks- 5.5″ wide, 5/8″ thick, and 6′ long. (I had the store cut each plank in half for me. YAY! less work.)
• 1 2×2 board- more like 1.5″ wide and thick, and 8′ long. (I had the store cut this into 6 equal pieces which came out to about 16″ each.)
• 2 1″ strips- 8′ long. (I had the store cut these into 2′ pieces.)

Step 3- Build Boxes. Since the store cut all of our wood all we needed to do was nail our boxes together. Our boxes only had three sides because I wanted to build them into the hill, and this made things way easier! If you want really sturdy boxes, though, and you don’t mind a bit more work, then you can go ahead and build 4 sides. Each box used two 16″ 2x2s for the corners. Then we just nailed the 3′ cedar planks to the 2x2s using two boards for each side of the box. We nailed both cedar boards directly next to each other on one end of the 2×2, which left a few inches of 2×2 on the bottom of the boxes (this is good for adding stability once placed in the ground).


Step 4- Dig out area for boxes on your hill, and put boxes in place. Start with your bottom most box and dig out a 3’x3′ space. In order to get your box to lie flat, you will need to dig more as the hill inclines (refer to diagram). We dug out the entire 3’x3′ area, but really focused on the sides where the box walls go in place. Once we dug out the area for the bottom box, we put it in place making sure that it was flat. Then we started digging out the place for the second box. Place the second box, and then do it again for the 3rd.

Step 5- Hammer in stakes where needed and fill in boxes with dirt. We placed stake on the outsides and insides of boxes depending on where we felt the boxes may need extra support to stay in place. Fill in the inside of boxes with good gardening soil. We also added dirt to the outsides of our boxes to secure them into the hillside as best as possible.

This is what our final product looked like:


The boxes aren’t quite as perfectly aligned and level as I wanted, but it was the best we could do with the massive roots and rocks that we were battling under our hill’s surface. And they still work great!

1 thought on “How to Build Garden Boxes on a Hill (for dummies like me)

  1. That looks great! Love your beautiful green yard! It doesn’t look like you live in Utah! Still waiting for an invitation to come see your new home. 😉

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *