Homesteading, Organic Gardening, How to Farm, Preparedness, Self-Reliance
Okay, in hopes of not sounding totally ignorant, I must bring up this discussion. At the front of our property, we have a driveway up to a house, which sits on a slope. Right behind the house is another slope. Then the acreage smooths out until there is yet another slope. Until all of the acreage is fenced, we need to figure out which area to enclose first. If we fence around the house and the two slopes and a little further back onto the flatter land, we would have the easiest access to water for a garden and a few animals. The question comes up about gardening on sloped land, however. If I were to arrange plants with drip irrigation, where the most drought tolerant plants were at the top of a slope and the ones that need more moisture were at the base of the slope, would that be a feasable plan for a productive garden? I don't particularly want to terrace the slopes. I cannot say that I've seen pictures of vegetable gardens on slopes. Any feedback or constructive suggestions appreciated!
I think you should consider crop rotation while deciding on this. You might not always be able to have the drought tolerant plants on the high side if you are rotating your crops, which is a good way to control soil nutrients and pests. I know you don't particularly want to terrace, but I have seen one small farm that grew veggies on sloped land using terracing and they grew enough to support a CSA. If I remember correctly they used a combination of various raised beds which made a stair case like effect up the slope. They were able to cut into the slope to build the raised beds and use the dirt they cut out to fill in the other beds so they didn't have to truck in dirt. They used found materials for the sides of the raised beds - one was framed in old wood, one was framed in cinder blocks, one bricks, etc. Around the beds they had gravel with moss or something growing in it to help stop the erosion. It was not only productive, but artistic and beautiful! Sounds like it'd be some work to get it started, but you'd have a showcase garden for sure.
Also, it might be a good way to use gravity to feed your drip irrigation. Maybe some rain barrels at the top of the slope could hold the water needed for the drip tape? It'd be tough to use a wheel barrow and carry up tools etc. though.
I like the rain barrels idea alot! I was thinking about learning how to pump water from the creek (below the sloped areas) to do the irrigation. The terracing you wrote of sounds cool, but it also sounds quite laborious!
I was looking at a variety of clovers and vetch to use for cover crops until I figure out what I'm doing. Whatever I use, it'll have to be hand broadcasted for now until we decide on a tractor..... Thanks alot for your input!
Just thought of something else you could check out - http://www.richsoil.com/hugelkultur/
It might be an alternative to the traditional raised beds that could be easier to implement. You would basically need to get a lot of wood, but this can be old wood that is laying in the forest or thick brush. Then you would make piles of it and cover it with soil. If you don't have a tractor, then you could always rent one for the project. Since you'd be doing this on a slope, then I think you would have to get a strong rooting cover crop planted quickly to hold it all in place or else use some logs to be a border on the lower edge to act like a retaining wall.
If you don't terrace a slope of any significant grade, you'll run into erosion problems when you work the soil up, and the rains come. if there are parts of the hillside that aren't too steep, and you do want to garden there, be sure to make the beds run along the slope, and not down it. Some terracing can occur naturally, without engineering, just through bed preparation. If you are using a tiller, always till the up-hill side of a bed first. It will make the wheels and tines (and eventually the bed) more level on subsequent passes. having a cover crop in wintertime, when erosion is at its worst will be very important.
We used a tiller and made beds following the slope. Contouring. Martin would till a line and then I would rake the bed flat, then drop down to the next bed. Without terracing you will have an erosion problem. You also need to look at what exposure the slope is facing. Most slopes have lost topsoil. This year we are dealing with a new garden spot. Martin came in from tilling last week and said we should be building a brick factory, not a garden. Welcome to Georgia! On a real slopey farm get a Draft horse....they don't tip over!
Hello Lyn, I have slopes on my place. They are not fenced areas. I grow Figs trees, Canna Flowers, Gardenia's, Grapes, and Strawberries, and Iris's. I find the hardest part to be standing firmly while weeding and such. Sincerely, Lisa
I've seen huglekultur tutorials before, and it certainly could be an option. Like you all said, there would need to be some sort of support to hold the soil on the lowest side of the slope for each row or mound. As for the lost topsoil, I've purchased my first covercrop seeds to amend/enrich the soil (I'm so excited about that!). And I'm going to dig soil samples for analyses at the extension office. It seems like for the size of the slopes, we could probably get by with a tiller as opposed to a tractor if we just do beds. Of course, if we went the huglekulture route we'd have to use tractor power to haul the logs in... and dig down some to stabilize the mounds. With my reading, I have a growing concern about using heavy equipment because of soil compaction. I'm eager to get out there and put my hands to it, whater it is! My husband just told me I've been reading so much I'm starting to sound like a farm snob, only problem is I need to do what I'm reading about to substantiate the knowlege with real experience! hahaha! Funny, I don't feel like a farm snob. In fact, I feel like I don't know enough! Perhaps the confidence comes with the doing?
Have you thought about raised beds? Because then you'd just have to worry about level raised beds and you could put in drip irrigation. If you want rows, I would think if the rows were running parallel to the slope (instead of up and down) then there wouldn't be as much water run off.
Dear Hubby and I went for a walk up the slope just yesterday (in a slight hail storm) to eye things up. We were pleasantly surprised to find a few areas that weren't exactly terraced, but that flattened out (probably made it easier for a mower in years past). These stretches were wide enough for a couple of rows with a walk in between them, I would think. I'm going to try sketching/plottting-out a garden with that in mind, and see if I come up with a, "let's try it!" or an, "uh-uh!" I'll keep you posted!
I have a sloping front yard and mine is probably a lot smaller than your land since I still live in a subdivision. But I wanted to plant something useful there and not just regular old shrubs so I now have an extensive herb garden on my slope. It works wonderfully b/c herbs need really good drainage. I do have room to vegetable garden elsewhere. But since you have some flat areas, you could vegetable garden in those and plant herbs on the slopes. This would also give you a lot of perennial growth through the winter (depending on where you live). Having the herbs there has slowed the water flow and erosion down the hill significantly. I will say that if I had it to do over again, I would add a few berms in some places to help slow down the water even more. I still have a few places that seem to allow too much water to get through in a downpour.