Can Retaining Walls Improve the Health of Your Yard?

Wall within raised bed

As familiar examples of landscape architecture, retaining walls make a considerable contribution to the yard’s aesthetic appeal. With its undulating terrain, the Ann Arbor MI area provides ample opportunities for these structures to be employed in residential settings. Beyond their ability to beautify, though, these walls serve to produce a healthier environment for the plant life inhabiting the yard. The following stand out as the more important assets retaining walls provide.

*Soil Stabilization
*Water Control
*Wind Deflection
*Temperature Stabilization

Soil Stabilization
In practical terms, this is what most people recognize as a retaining wall’s main benefit. Even modest slopes can experience erosion if they’re hit with enough rainwater. This part of Michigan certainly has sufficient rain. It also produces lots of snow that can melt and carry topsoil away. Damming earth behind a wall not only keeps rich topsoil in place, it provides the opportunity for the homeowner to put work into building up the nutrient levels.

Water Control
Along with soil control, retaining walls can improve yard health by redirecting water to where it can do the most good. Without leveling walls, water can accumulate in some spots and create miniature swamps that drown plant roots. Other sections of the yard can suffer from inadequate amounts of water. With walls in place, water is collected in drainage tiles and redirected to the dry spots. As with soil stabilization, walls utilized for this purpose can be constructed from a variety of materials like masonry, poured concrete, or landscaping timbers.

Retaining wall along gardens

Windbreaks
Blocking damaging winds keeps plants healthy in both summer and winter. The harm caused by severe winds during the growing season is pretty obvious. What’s not as obvious is how a few inches of winter snow around the bases of perennials supplies protection from lower temperatures that can sweep in. Winter winds can blow away this covering and expose the lower parts of plants to the excessive cold. The security created by the retaining wall helps keep this layer of snow in place.

Temperature Stabilization
Plants stay healthy when they’re able to successfully complete their growing season cycle. Around the Ann Arbor MI region, cold snaps can strike in both the late spring and early fall. In the springtime, after various plants have finished blooming, occasional late frosts and freezes can hit that often damage or destroy fruits, vegetables, and seeds. Here, a retaining wall constructed of masonry acts as a thermal mass that absorbs heat from both sunlight and the surrounding warm air. When the cold hits, this warmth is radiated back out to help stave off the cold from affecting nearby plants. This also applies in fall when the threat of an early cold spell could mean the loss of fruits and vegetables that haven’t finished ripening. In addition, the warmer local climate created by the wall can also accommodate plants that usually couldn’t quite handle winter temperatures in the area. This improves yard health by allowing a greater diversity of plants in the landscape.