Walkout basement landscaping...what to do??

by Nicole Hinrichs
(Emporia, KS, USA)

We have a walkout basement. It has a 10ft wide concrete patio that runs most of the length of the house. I would love to do some landscaping out back but don't know how. I could plant on the slopes but the flat part is where I have trouble. It is swampy in one area (about in the middle) and out farther towards our pasture it is like a desert. I can hardly dig deep enough to plant anything because I hit solid rock. We live in KS. I would love for our walkout area to be "cozy" (think secret garden). Please give any suggestions or advice but keep in mind it has to be something I can do (my husband doesn't like yard work at all). I can even take pictures and email if I need to. Our house will be 5 years old this year and I need to get something done back there. It is so ugly!! All that is back there is a little bit of grass and I do mean a little bit! Thanks so much.

Please send some pictures through my Contact Me form so that I can take a look and get some better ideas of what it looks like. Once I receive them, I'd be more than happy to give you some ideas.


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Comments for Walkout basement landscaping...what to do??

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Mar 15, 2011
sorry it's been so long...back in the game now!
by: Nicole

Wow...can't believe it's been over a year and I still have done nothing with that part of the yard and still have not taken pictures. I will do that tonight!! It is so nice to hear that others have the same trouble I have! Please post pictures if you have found a solution to your walkout basement! I am thinking of putting a whole lot of rock down, fire pit, and then big potted plants for color and then plant some stuff on the slopes where we actually have enough dirt to plant! LOL


Hi Nicole,
As you stated and as the picture indicates, you have two issues.

1. I've sketched in a planting bed outline that you could use to create plants on the slope.

It could be similar for both retaining wall areas. I put in a tree which I think would be very nice, although you may not want to tackle this. It would provide some height and also some shade. It could be an ornamental tree that flowers such as a Dogwood or it could be a shade tree. See my page on landscape trees.

You could use a variety of drought tolerant plants. Forsythia go a long way. They are large and quite inexpensive. I can see a mass of these. Then you could add in some perennials for color. Perennial Flowers. Many of these are drought tolerant and hardy, such as Catmint 'Walker's Low' (one of my favorites...very low maintenance and flowers most of the season). You could do a huge mass of these also or use a variety of perennials and other drought tolerant shrubs.Ajuga is a groundcover that will spread. You could incorporate this perennial groundcover also. There are lots of choices. Due to the slope it will be drier than a flatter area, so be sure to use plants that like dry conditions or they will most likely not survive.

2. The second is the wet area outside the basement patio. You said it sloped away from the patio.

Drains are a solution, but since you mentioned that you will most likely be doing the work yourself, I don't think this is an option. I would recommend a rain garden. This is a planted area that contains plants that love wet conditions. Their roots soak up the water.

What you could do is connect the two side beds to a planting bed where the water is collecting...or it could be a separate planting bed. Visit my page on rain gardens for information on plants that do well in wet conditions. I've listed a few, but their are many more. Ignore the ferns as they like shady conditions.

Also visit plants for landscaping.

Nov 07, 2010
Walkout Basements - Landscaping the Slopes
by: Susan

Hi Terri,

Landscaping slopes adjacent to your walkout basement does not have to be difficult. Often steps are used to transition from an upper level to a lower level. Once the steps are in place, you can add landscaping.

If it is very steep, you might need a low retaining wall along the steps. Bluestone steppers can be used for any type of slope. These are large pieces of fieldstone or bluestone and each one is a step...in other words you do not have to build a tread and riser. There's a photo of these steps on my page perennial garden design.

Create beds on either side of the steps. See my page on
landscaping steep slopes. Let some plants cascade over the existing retaining walls. Use drought tolerant plants if it is sunny so that watering does not become an issue. Make the beds curvilinear.The balance of the areas can be lawn.

If you would like to send some photos, just get in touch with me via my
contact form.

Nov 06, 2010
Walk out basement
by: Terri

We also have the same problem. We have a 30 x 30 pad, with concrete walls sloping on each side. We have a patio on top floor, would like to incorporate both somehow.Lawn slops about 25 degreese from base of top floor, towards a a fence, with a flatter are were the pad is to the fence. Any Ideas.Thank you so much for your help. Terri

Jun 23, 2010
Landscaping Ideas For a Walkout Basement
by: Susan

The area outside a walkout basement can vary. Sometimes it is just a small pad with steps going up to the backyard. It might just slope up to the next level. Other times it can be a larger area. Since it is at a lower level, the transition to the upper backyard area might be sloped (as mentioned)or there might be a retaining wall. Many times this area is shady due to an above deck.

Here are some ideas for creating a more inviting area.

1. Use lots of potted plants. If the area is sunny with nothing above it, choose drought tolerant plants so that the planters are low maintenance. Sedums, both the low varieties and the taller ones are good choices. If you don't mind watering, you can use lots of colorful annuals.

2. If the area is shady with above decking, consider hanging plants from the above rafters. This will add another dimension. If the area is not currently paved, a fern and hosta garden is very cool. Plant lots of these shade loving plants and add stepping stones to create pathways for access.

3. If the transition to the upper level is sloped and is difficult to mow, I will assume it is sunny. Once again drought tolerant plants that spread will produce a low maintenance garden over time. See my page on Xeriscape Plants.

4. For inexpensive paving, consider pretty pebbles. Small river rock or similar is a nice surface. If you want to use it as a sitting area, this type of stone will be fine. For a more structured surface, consider pavers.

Jun 22, 2010
Same boat!
by: Wendy

Oh dear, I am in the same boat as the two of you. We have a walkout basement. We only have a small concete pad by the door and then the rest is weeds and whatnot. I have NO clue what to do with it. My husbands suggestion is to bring in big gravel and call it good. I would like a place for a fire pit, a little grass, some seating and of course places for nice flowers. Any help???

Mar 02, 2010
by: Heather

I am in the same boat and would love any input. Retaining walls are expensive and I would like to avoid them if possible, but either way I am stumped. Could I see your ideas as well?

Jan 26, 2010
what to do??
by: Nicole

I will get some pictures taken very soon and email them to you. Thanks a bunch.

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