San Francisco may be one of the greatest cities in the world, Paris of the American west, but it's also one of the most severely-impacted for free space.
Homeowners pay a premium to live in the City by the Bay, even in cramped quarters with a one-bedroom apartment in some neighborhoods fetching upwards of $2,000 a month in rent. If San Franciscans are lucky enough to own their own home, chances are that their backyard is a small square of land on uneven terrain. Indeed, the city by the Golden Gate is one known for its rolling hills, famously challenging for drivers with manual transmissions but also no picnic for would-be gardeners. Good luck getting anything to grow on a small hill in one's backyard.
All this being said, terracing can work wonders in San Francisco, turning unwieldy backyards into arable land. Backyard terracing can make the best of a cramped situation and even add value to a property.
Terracing In San Francisco
What is backyard terracing? Planet Natural explains, "Think the Hanging Gardens of Babylon or the beautiful terraced rice paddies of Asia." (Source: http://www.planetnatural.com/terrace-gardening)
In drier terms, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, part of the United States Department of Agriculture notes on its website:
"Terraces can create several mini-gardens in your backyard. On steep slopes, terracing can make planting a garden possible. Terraces prevent erosion by shortening the long slope into a series of shorter, more level steps. This allows heavy rains to soak into the soil rather than run off and cause erosion."
Terracing offers a positive in San Francisco for a number of reasons. The erosion protection matters in a city that gets plenty of fog and rain and is largely comprised of historic Victorian houses situated on hills. Installing a system of terraces in one's San Francisco backyard, perhaps with the help of an experienced Bay Area landscape company, is like putting in a buffer against Mother Nature. It's like another form of Homeowner's Insurance, as well as insurance for other homes in the neighborhood.
Building a backyard terrace can be done with the help of professionals or on one's own. This Old House offers a gallery of photos for inspiration, while the NRCS has an 11-point plan for building a terrace on its website. Important considerations suggested by the NRCS in this plan include determining any buried utilities before starting to excavate and determining the rise and run of the slope so as to know how much space to give each bed of the terrace and how high each step must rise. Terrace builders will also need to choose what kind of material to use for terrace walls. Two options are treated wood and stone masonry. (Source: http://tamatelandscaping.com/retaining-walls-terracing)
It's not easy work by any stretch of the imagination to build a backyard terrace, but with a little effort, money and professional help if necessary, any San Francisco homeowner can have their own terraced wonderland. It's a worthwhile investment, even in a city where little if anything can be had cheap.