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The ground in front of my house slopes down fairly aggressively from right to left. This leaves an awkward sloping garden bed between my driveway, house, front steps, and sidewalk. See photo below.

full view of bed

There's currently a poorly-constructed retaining wall helping to level this bed out, but it has to run into the railing for my porch steps, which means I have bricks haphazardly placed underneath and around the railing to try to "complete" the wall.

closeup of railing area

Unfortunately, this wall does not provide enough elevation, and soil is still eroding from under my driveway. I'm concerned that, over the long-term, the driveway will sink and crack.

driveway closeup

I'd like to come up with a solution that 1) protects the driveway, 2) keeps the bed level enough to avoid topsoil/mulch washing away, and 3) doesn't involve my front porch railing becoming part of a weird wall... I'm hoping to remove and replace the sidewalk and wall anyway, so that can change as part of this project.

Here's ideas I've had...

  1. Divide the bed in the middle with a wall, possibly made out of landscape timbers, so that the bed could be at two different heights. (I think this would look silly.)
  2. Build a wall next to the driveway to keep the soil under the driveway stable, and lower the whole bed.
  3. Move the railing onto the top of the edge of the steps, rather than next to the steps, so that a wall could begin beside the steps and go all the way around the bed.
  4. Eliminate the wall entirely and just hope things don't wash away. (Seems unlikely.)

I've talked to several landscapers and a mason, and nobody seems to have any fantastic ideas for solving this problem. Is there a creative possibility here I haven't considered? I realize that the "best" solution is a matter of opinion here, but I'm open to helpful recommendations that will open our eyes to all the possibilities.

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Something like your option 3 could be done.

From the level of the driveway or maybe 2 bricks higher, construct a brick retaining wall matching the bricks on the house and steps.

The driveway needs to be stuffed with more concrete and reinforced by that section of the new brick wall.

Make the wall strong and the top level and leave a couple of drainage holes under the steps.

Fill it with good mineral soil (actual dirt) mixed with organic material, maybe even bury some ramial prunings (called arborist wood chips in the US) to continue to feed the microbes in the soil. Make the soil level and with enough space for air circulation under that bay window.

Modify the railing to attach to the top of the new wall while being safe and ergonomically correct.

Then the fun part: plant some native perennials you love and thrive there, especially the ones that provide food for the food of birds. Or save the old ones in big pots if you want. I wouldn’t try to grow people food there though.

Your wife will think you’re a genius and she can plant flowers and talk to the passersby who will praise her (or you) for the beautiful garden bed and thank you for all the butterflies.

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  • +1 That wall does indeed need to be raised at the railing end. The OP has to take the slope from both the house and the driveway into account, which can be a challenging task for an amateur. Perhaps they could consult with a certified landscape architect for an hour's time so that this is done correctly. Note that Landscape Architects have some engineering in their education and should be skilled at doing this, whereas "landscapers" can range from knowledge non-engineers to "two guys with a skidsteer and lawnmower/blower".
    – Jurp
    Commented Jan 5, 2023 at 13:44

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