Sunken Garden Ideas For Every Outdoor Space and Budget (2023)

If sunken garden ideas tend to conjure up images of grand country houses for you, then it might be time to think again. Sunken gardens can actually be designed to fit in with all kinds of garden sizes and shapes, as well as budgets.

While it is true that, when it comes to garden landscaping ideas, there is most definitely some planning required to create a sunken area within your garden, with a little forethought and careful consideration of what you want from the new space, there is no reason why this needs to be a complicated project.

Although some people do take on the design and creation of a sunken garden on a DIY basis, the input and expertise of an experienced garden designer can also be invaluable here, if only to advise you on the best use of your individual space.

We have rounded up some of the best and most inspirational ways to use and create a sunken garden in order to boost your imagination.

Sunken Garden Ideas: Initial Considerations

Before breaking ground or getting too carried away with your garden design, take time to consider exactly what you want to use your sunken garden for, how it might fit in with the rest of your outdoor spaces and the best location for it.

There are some particularly important elements to bear in mind when creating a sunken area, as opposed to a flat garden, including:

  • Retaining walls: The walls that will surround your sunken garden need to be sturdy in order to hold back the ground that will be surrounding it. The type of wall you opt for will obviously depend on how far you are digging down for your garden.
  • Drainage: You definitely don't want your new sunken garden to turn into a swimming pool every time it rains. Good drainage is key to this and it is well worth speaking to a landscape designer about this aspect.
  • Depth: A sunken garden need not be overly deep —in fact sometimes just slightly lowering a section of patio or lawn can be enough to create interest and a space that seems more cosy and intimate than the other areas of the garden.
  • Seating: Think about how seating will be provided in your sunken garden. Many people choose to use the retaining wall as the back of a bench, for example.
  • Outdoor heating: If you plan on including an outdoor fireplace, firepit or outdoor kitchen in your sunken garden, bear in mind its position and how you will direct smoke away from the seating areas.

1. Incorporate Built-in Seating

Sunken Garden Ideas For Every Outdoor Space and Budget (1)

Including great seating in your new sunken space is key to enjoying it. There are several ways of doing this. While there is most certainly nothing wrong with simply positioning some great patio furniture there, building seating into the surrounding walls is a brilliant way to make the most of the space you have.

When looking at retaining wall ideas, be sure to check out those that use the wall as a backing for bench seating —not only does it look sleek and stylish but when used along two walls this is a great way to create a cosy, intimate feel.

2. Use Curves For a Sociable Vibe

Sunken Garden Ideas For Every Outdoor Space and Budget (2)

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Sunken gardens come in all shapes and sizes so don't feel that you have to stick to straight lines. In fact, curved and circular sunken gardens can really foster a sense of protection and shelter within your outdoor spaces.

It is well worth looking into how to lay a paving circle if you like this idea —with the patio space in place you can then choose between a wall or hedging to form the boundaries of the area.

3. Include a Central Firepit

Sunken Garden Ideas For Every Outdoor Space and Budget (3)

Firepits and outdoor fireplaces are hugely popular in terms of patio ideas right now. Not only do they give the garden a gloriously snug feel as night falls, but they also make it possible to enjoy it for longer, even when the temperature falls. Many people like to opt for a firepit that doubles up as somewhere to barbecue or toast marshmallows.

This fantastic design is by Sue Gilbert Gardens By Design (opens in new tab) in collaboration with Habitat Landscapes Ltd (opens in new tab). The sunken garden is just one step down but worked with the fact there was a gentle fall in the garden.

4. Create a Formal Style Sunken Garden

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The sunken garden of this beautiful oak framed self build suits the style of the house and garden perfectly.

A brick retaining wall surrounds the patio space, with wide steps leading down from the lawn to the extensive seating spot. Low clipped box hedges add a sense of formality and keep the space open so as not to block light from the sun room that now opens out to it.

5. Use a Sunken Garden To Extend Interior Spaces

Sunken Garden Ideas For Every Outdoor Space and Budget (5)

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The best sloping garden ideas often result in some of the most successful landscaping schemes.

In the case of narrow sloping spaces, excavating for a sunken garden that can be accessed from the interior spaces is the best way to ensure a good view of the exterior while allowing for plenty of natural light to penetrate them.

In the garden of this extended house, designed by Paul Archer Design (opens in new tab), the lower ground floor now feels part of the garden and can be fully opened up to the new patio space.

6. Ensure The Space is Private

Sunken Garden Ideas For Every Outdoor Space and Budget (6)

In gardens that are a little overlooked, it is important that the sunken spaces don't feel exposed —which is where methods of increasing a sense of privacy are key.

To avoid the whole look becoming too oppressive, choose a range of materials to surround the space, including tall plants, such as bamboo and grasses, natural screens and perhaps throw a few privacy fence ideas into the mix too.

7. Include a Pond in Your Sunken Garden

Sunken Garden Ideas For Every Outdoor Space and Budget (7)

While you are going to the effort of excavating for a sunken garden, why not dig out a pond at the same time?

The garden of this house was heavily sloping meaning 500 tons of soil had to be taken out —the newly formed sunken patio area now features a beautifully contemporary pond with stepping stones leading to the steps that rise to the neat lawn space. It is useful to note, that ponds can also be designed to help with drainage issues and perhaps act an alternative to a soakaway.

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8. Use Retaining Walls as Planters

Sunken Garden Ideas For Every Outdoor Space and Budget (8)

Retaining walls can do more than just hold back soil when it comes to the design of your sunken garden.

Rather than viewing them as just practical features, why not use them to add depth and interest to the space by turning them into raised planters? Simply fill them with soil and get planting —use a range of perennials and annuals for year-round interest and be sure to vary the heights of the the plants you choose.

9. Consider Your Planting Scheme

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To ensure your new sunken garden doesn't feel too sterile or isn't only made up of hard landscaping materials, it is important to consider your planting scheme and They can also become great patio planting ideas at the same time up as coming up with your overall design.

The plants you opt for should be considered with the style of your house in mind as well as your soil type and the orientation of the garden. This New England-style self build features a beautiful sunken patio area surrounded by a range of gentle green and purple shrubs that soften the appearance of the brick retaining wall.

10. Create a Lush Feel With Deep Flowerbeds

Sunken Garden Ideas For Every Outdoor Space and Budget (10)

Sometimes sunken gardens don't feature retaining walls, with the garden gently sloping into them instead, as in this example.

If you decide on this option, make sure to take the opportunity to pack the surrounding slope full of greenery. Not only will this inject a lush sense of wellbeing into the space, but it will also help it to feel distinct from the other areas of your garden, creating a natural division.

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11. Give The Illusion of a Sunken Garden

Sunken Garden Ideas For Every Outdoor Space and Budget (11)

If your garden doesn't quite lend itself to accommodating a sunken area, or your motivation for undertaking a landscaping project is lacking somewhat, then why not fake it it instead?

This is a great one for those after small garden design ideas too. This compact corner has been sectioned off with lattice style fencing, while the Nordic décor Grey Matt Geometric Stone effect Porcelain Outdoor Floor Tiles from B&Q (opens in new tab), create the illusion of a central portion that is lower than the edging.

12. Site a Garden Room in Your Sunken Space

Sunken Garden Ideas For Every Outdoor Space and Budget (12)

One of our favourite garden room ideas is to ensure your new building has its own patio space to enjoy. Locating a garden office or summer house within a sunken garden will ensure it feels very distinct from your house, becoming somewhere to retreat to or the ideal quite spot to work.

This garden building, by Green Retreats (opens in new tab), feels like a proper space to escape to thanks to it being located in a lowered section of the garden — the hot tub and great selection of outdoor furniture help too...

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FAQs

How do you build a sunken garden? ›

Creating sunken gardens is done much like a typical garden but instead of building the soil at or above ground level, it falls below the grade. Topsoil is dug out of the designated planting area about 4 to 8 inches (10-20 cm.), may go up to a foot (31 cm.) with deeper plantings, below grade and set aside.

What are some common mistakes people make when they plan a garden? ›

5 of the Biggest Garden Design Mistakes You Might Be Making
  • Even Numbers of Plants. While natural things often come in pairs (two eyes, two legs, two wings, etc.), it's best not to pair up or use even numbers of plants. ...
  • Clashing Colors. ...
  • Mismatched Garden Style. ...
  • Empty Beds. ...
  • Not Following a Plan.
Mar 7, 2022

How deep is a sunken garden? ›

The ideal depth of a sunken garden is about 120 cm. In case the sufficient depth is available one or all the walls of the sunken garden can be developed into dry wall. Sufficient depth will help support the raised sides of the sunken garden in addition to beauty.

How deep should an inground garden be? ›

They should have at least 8 inches of soil depth to accommodate the root systems of plants, because the majority of plant roots require 6 – 8 inches of soil for healthy root growth. A depth of 8 – 12 inches will suffice for most gardening situations.

What is the cheapest garden surface? ›

Gravel is the cheapest option when looking to create a patio on a budget. Otherwise, pebbles or reclaimed materials are also good options. If you're set on laying paving slabs, concrete is one of the cheapest materials, and when installed and maintained correctly, it can hold up well and last for years.

What is the cheapest ground cover for garden? ›

Mulch is a great option because it improves soil quality, prevents weeds from developing, reduces water needs, and increases pest resistance. Above all, it's the cheapest option to cover up dirt in your backyard.

What should you not do in a garden? ›

What Not to Do in the Garden
  1. Don't plant before the soil is fully prepared. ...
  2. Don't buy plants if you don't have a place to put them. ...
  3. Don't neglect to mulch every square inch of soil. ...
  4. Don't put off cleaning up after planting an area.
Jun 23, 2021

What not to do in landscaping? ›

Avoid these common landscaping errors for the best yard on the block.
  1. Mowing Too Low.
  2. Not Making a Master Plan.
  3. Not Considering Sun and Shade.
  4. Not Giving Plants Enough Space.
  5. Not Mulching Properly.
  6. Not Installing Landscaping Borders.
  7. Letting the Garden Outgrow You.
Apr 19, 2022

What is the purpose of Sunken Garden? ›

Sunken gardens are great for keeping the roots of plants cool and watered – and are still used in garden today. Often, mulch is added to the sunken beds, to help retain moisture and to regulate the soil temperature.

What are the components of Sunken Garden? ›

Sunken garden

It is formed by taking the advantage of a natural depression. The depression is made into different tiers over which ground covers, edges, flower beds and small herbs may be grown. At the center of depression, a pond or pool is formed to grow water plants.

Why should people use sunken beds for gardening at home? ›

“The beds are to be located in a shady place to reduce the rate of evaporation. It allows a farmer to water the vegetables twice or thrice a week,” says Mr. Mlamba. To maximize on conservation efforts, the organization is urging farmers to plant fruit trees to provide shade for the vegetables on the sunken beds.

How do you make a cheap backyard oasis? ›

10 Budget-Friendly Ideas for Creating an Outdoor Oasis by Emily Farris Last Updated: May 12, 2022
  1. Set the mood with string lights. ...
  2. Make your space more private. ...
  3. Create a seating zone… ...
  4. … ...
  5. Add plants (real and fake). ...
  6. Tie the room together with an outdoor rug. ...
  7. Get a sprayer nozzle for your hose.
May 12, 2022

How do I make my outdoor space private? ›

How To Create A Private Outdoor Space
  1. Create a plant wall. Hang plants and grasses in plant frames – you'll gain texture, as well as color, and be able to enjoy the benefits of the plants.
  2. Add a garden gate. ...
  3. Use boxwood. ...
  4. Install a pergola. ...
  5. Hang a curtain or a screen. ...
  6. Expand your garden. ...
  7. Pop a tent. ...
  8. Add trellis screens.
Jul 22, 2013

What is the most basic garden layout? ›

The most basic garden plan consists of a design with straight, long rows running north to south orientation. A north to south direction will ensure that the garden gets the best sun exposure and air circulation. A garden that runs east to west tends to get too shaded from the crops growing in the preceding row.

What is the cheapest way to make raised beds? ›

Raised beds made of cinder blocks or concrete blocks

Cinder blocks and concrete blocks are very inexpensive (typically $2 to $3 a piece at home improvement centers), and they make it really easy to build the outline of a raised garden bed.

What is the ideal garden bed size? ›

1. What size will it be? Raised beds are generally three to four feet wide by about six to eight feet long. This allows you to easily reach into the raised bed from the side to plant and dig and weed, without having to step into the garden where you risk compacting the soil.

What is an inexpensive ground cover? ›

Pachysandra (Pachysandra terminalis)

Another bonus is that it is common and considered one of the cheapest ground covering plants. This is a deer- and rabbit-resistant ground cover that is ideal for large swaths of landscape. Pachysandra are aggressive and fast-spreading coverings that grow underground with runners.

What is the best low maintenance garden? ›

Keep it simple. Keep planting simple – hardy shrubs and evergreen plants are key. Shrubs are great because they're long-lived and won't need replacing every year. Evergreens such as these sedges and hellebores look good all year and drop fewer leaves than deciduous plants.

How do I build a cheap container garden? ›

Large Plastic Containers

Convert any large container into a mini garden making sure there are drainage holes. Grow some veggies right there on your balcony. Add a few nasturtium seeds which will grow to cover the plastic container, and you're all set for a stylish, inexpensive veggie garden.

What is the least expensive landscaping? ›

20 Cheap Landscaping Ideas
  1. Add a walkway. Nancy Buron, Pixabay. ...
  2. Save with perennials. Coreopsis / JamesDeMers / Pixabay. ...
  3. Spread some mulch. F. D. Richards, CC BY-SA 2.0. ...
  4. Plant flowers around your mailbox. Mohan Nannapaneni, Pixabay. ...
  5. Plant a tree sapling. ...
  6. Raise your garden bed. ...
  7. Repurpose items as planters. ...
  8. Landscape with lighting.
May 9, 2022

What is the least expensive landscaping material? ›

Crushed concrete, resin pieces, or river stones are all great options for the budget-conscious homeowner. River stones are one of the cheapest landscaping rocks you can buy, you can often find them for only a couple of dollars per pound.

What is the cheapest rock to use for landscaping? ›

Three of the cheapest landscape rocks on the market are crushed granite, pea gravel and river rocks. Each one has multiple functions while improving the look of your landscaping design. If you're planning a DIY project on a tight budget, these are great hardscape options for beauty and function.

What is the easiest ground cover? ›

Instead of planting turfgrass, try these hardy groundcovers that can withstand the heat.
  • 01 of 10. Thyme. Bob Stefko. ...
  • 02 of 10. Sedum. Bob Stefko. ...
  • 03 of 10. Hens-and-Chicks. Marty Baldwin. ...
  • 04 of 10. Sweet Woodruff. Bill Stites. ...
  • 05 of 10. Ajuga. Bob Stefko. ...
  • 06 of 10. Lamium. Rich Pomerantz. ...
  • 07 of 10. Brass Buttons. ...
  • 08 of 10. Mondo Grass.
Jan 23, 2023

What can ruin a garden? ›

8 Planting Mistakes That Can Ruin Your Garden Before it Even Gets Going
  • Starting Seeds Too Early. ...
  • Fertilizing Too Much Too Soon. ...
  • Turning the Soil Too Early. ...
  • Not Hardening Off Seedlings. ...
  • Planting Seedlings Too Deep. ...
  • Choosing a Site Without Enough Sun. ...
  • Allowing Seedlings to Dry Out. ...
  • Failing to Repel Garden Pests.
Apr 25, 2022

What can destroy a garden? ›

Bad weather can also ruin your garden. If you do not have a proper drainage system then heavy rains will eventually destroy all your plants. In summers, you need to face the threat that is posed by weeds. Weeds can destroy your soil and as a result of which, your plants could die.

What are the four common mistakes landscapers make when planting? ›

  • Planting in the Wrong Place. A common Landscaping mistake is improper plant placement. ...
  • Cutting Grass Too Short. It's a common myth that cutting the grass shorter means you get to mow it less often. ...
  • Not Fertilizing Properly. ...
  • Not Accounting for Wildlife. ...
  • Improper Pruning. ...
  • Irrational Irrigation.
Jul 11, 2017

What is the most important thing in gardening? ›

To simplify it, there are five main things you should focus on when gardening: sun, soil, spacing, water and nutrients. Here are some important tips to tending to your garden this summer. A majority of plants, both flowers and vegetables, require about six hours of sunshine per day.

Does gardening prevent dementia? ›

Research shows that daily gardening may lower the risk of dementia by 36%. According to a Swedish study, engaging in activities that stimulate the brain reduces the risk of Alzheimer's disease as much as physical activity would.

What is the most important thing in landscaping? ›

Sunlight is an incredibly important feature in any landscape. The amount and quality of the light, including when and how much, affects what kind of plants are a fit for your yard. Some plants need full sun, which means six hours of direct sunlight or more per day, while other plants need partial sun.

What time of year is best for landscaping? ›

The best time to begin landscaping and planting trees, shrubs, and perennials is in the months of April and May. These spring months will give your plants the opportunity to grow and acclimate during the summer and fall. However, the next best time to begin landscaping is the fall.

What are the 7 elements of landscape design? ›

The principles of landscape design include the elements of unity, scale, balance, simplicity, variety, emphasis, and sequence as they apply to line, form, texture, and color. These elements are interconnected.

What is the purpose of sunken garden? ›

Sunken gardens are great for keeping the roots of plants cool and watered – and are still used in garden today. Often, mulch is added to the sunken beds, to help retain moisture and to regulate the soil temperature.

How do you drain a sunken garden? ›

A soakaway reduces the risk of flooding by allowing water to gradually drain away through the soil. They can be created with rubble but also soakaway crates that have the added benefit of improving the stability of the ground. Other sunken gardens may use free-draining gravel and a land drain.

Is an underground garden possible? ›

Today they have a hectare of underground growing space producing leafy greens, herbs like Thai basil and garlic chives and pea shoots. The growing process is soil-free – plants are grown on recycled carpets – and the farm can produce up to 60 harvests a year, six times the output of a conventional outdoor farm.

What is the disadvantage of sunken beds? ›

Disadvantages of Sunken Beds and Raised Beds

Gardeners in cooler climates have no use for sunken-bed gardens. The deeper trenches for planting stay cool longer in the spring, delaying planting, while the added moisture can stunt or kill plants by drowning their roots.

What are the components of sunken garden? ›

Sunken garden

It is formed by taking the advantage of a natural depression. The depression is made into different tiers over which ground covers, edges, flower beds and small herbs may be grown. At the center of depression, a pond or pool is formed to grow water plants.

What is a lazy garden? ›

Lazy gardening, effortless gardening, efficient gardening or no-fuss gardening refers to a method of gardening which uses work-saving techniques in order to reduce the effort and time required to maintain a garden.

How do you drain a low area yard? ›

One of the best ways to get rid of water from a low spot is to simply drain it away through an underground drainage pipe. For this to work, you need an area to discharge the water that's lower than the inlet. The underground drainage pipe should slope downhill at least 1/8 in. per foot.

Where should I put drainage in my garden? ›

The ditches should feature sloping sides and should be dug out at the lower end of the slope. Although basic, this type of drainage system will usually do the trick and should divert extra surface water away from your garden. A French ditch or dry well is a sloped ditch that redirects stagnant water into a drain.

What are the disadvantages of underground farming? ›

Thus, underground farming could be one part of the solution for higher food security. On the downside are current high energy costs for the growth lamps. Also, building underground spaces is expensive with current technology.

Do you need planning permission for underground garden room? ›

Excavating the ground under your home to create a basement involves major works, high costs and may well require planning permission. The good news is that the vast majority of local authorities will let you dig deep under planning rules known as Permitted Development Rights.

What is an underground garden called? ›

A Walipini, or any underground greenhouse, can extend the season using a free natural resource. While an excellent strategy for many growers, one must be carefully consider how to customize the design or building method to work for the local climate.

What is the easiest way to dig soil? ›

You can do all the work with basic tools, such as a spade for digging up the soil, a wide-toothed fork for removing weeds and their roots, and a rake for levelling the ground. However, if you want to save time and energy, you could use a rotary tiller, which will let you finish the job in no time.

Should I soak the ground before digging? ›

CBS Philadelphia says: By dampening the soil ahead of time – such as the day before or early in the morning to move a plant later in the day – you give the earth a chance to loosen up enough that you can slice through with a spade and remove plants quickly – it even helps with weeding.

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