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What is a Terrace Garden?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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The term “terrace garden” can refer to two different types of gardens. In one sense, a terrace garden is a garden which is established on a terrace, roof, or patio, usually in a house where there is limited gardening space. These types of gardens are especially popular in urban areas, and they are sometimes used in restaurants and other establishments as well. A terrace garden can also be a garden which is built in a series of raised or “terraced” beds against a hillside. Terrace agriculture is often the only way to utilize steep land, and some very ancient examples of terrace gardens can be found in South America and Asia.

Terrace gardens in the sense of patio or rooftop gardens can be ornamental or functional, and they are usually designed with container plants to make the terrace easier to manage. Gardeners can also build raised beds on their terraces for gardening. Sun exposure and access to water are two important things to consider when establishing the garden, as is the goal of the garden.

Some people like to grow fresh herbs and vegetables on their terraces, while others want to create a green retreat. Occasionally, gardeners create a mixture of the two. Plants can be trellised around a terrace for privacy or shade, or used to create a pleasant recreation area for residents and guests of the home. It pays to plan ahead when developing this type of garden, because of space considerations.

In the other sense, a terrace garden can be used as an ornamental landscaping feature, a way to make a landscape functional for gardening, or a source of crops. Terrace gardens are constructed by leveling areas of a hillside and building retaining walls to prevent erosion. Gardeners can also backfill an area bounded by a retaining wall to create a raised terrace. Drainage is critical with this type of terracing.

In areas where hills are not a part of the landscape, it is still possible to build a terrace garden. Some people like terraced landscaping because it makes the landscape more dynamic and interesting. In order to create terraces, gravel for drainage and soil for growing will need to be trucked in and built into a series of terraces which are retained with wood, brick, or concrete walls. Once established, this garden can be developed in a variety of ways, and it often attracts a great deal of attention from guests.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a HomeQuestionsAnswered researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By Mor — On Jul 12, 2011

My grandmother had a great terraced garden when I was a kid. It was going up a slope that ran up the side of her house. I don't know if she put it in or if it was already there though.

Each terrace was like a large stone basin with soil so she could plant whatever she liked. I remember she grouped her plants in each basin, so there were a bunch of bright flowers in one, herbs in another, berries in a third and so on.

I'm not sure if that was because it made them easier to care for, or because she liked the aesthetic or if she was simply organized that way.

I hope one day I'll be able to have terraced garden beds like that.

By pleonasm — On Jul 11, 2011

I watched a TV program the other night in which people who had absolutely no space in their apartments for plants, built tiny terrace gardens in their fire escapes.

It was a little bit dangerous, although they tried to keep the area as clear as possible, by growing vines that draped up the sides for example (like passion fruit and tomatoes) or by hooking the pots to the other side of the walls. That gave them better sunlight anyway.

I thought they made something unattractive look quite nice and it gave them a way of making their own little bits of fresh food.

Of course, it wasn't much of a roof garden but it was still quite lovely.

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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