Steep slope gardening

Here’s How You Garden on Impossible Steep Sloping Land

Do you live on steeply sloping land and didn't think you could garden? Without horizontal growing space, a garden or fruit trees may seem impossible.  But it’s not!  Here's one solution that uses vertical space for tremendous growth.

Hannah Maloney and Anton Vikstrom transform their high slope, steep elevation home into a garden paradise.  So enjoyable they couldn’t imagine being anywhere else. 

A home paradise is even more valuable with more professionals working from home.  Here's that transformation as featured on “Gardening Australia” …

Garden on a slope with heat-treated pallets | DIY Garden Projects (5:28) | Gardening Australia, Feb 2019

With 45 degree slopes, every design element matters.  They use a combination of earth berms, retaining walls, and terraces to pin down steep slopes.

A Holistic Approach to Stabilize Slopes and Protect from Erosion

The best solution is to have nature hold the hill in place. Do this through plant selection and placement.

Plant perennials to provide ground cover and prevent erosion. Rain damage is your most significant enemy gardening on steep slopes.

Use trees to establish deep rooting mass. Surround them with native grasses and herbaceous plants for maximum holding capacity.

Terracing is a beautiful way for people to live while getting and giving the most to the land.  Using bench terraces, effective use of slope, and a design plan.

It doesn't have to be hard work.  You're expanding horizontal growing areas with terracing.

It’s old technology.  For more than 10,000 years, humans transform near-vertical slopes into shelves or terraces for growing. 

Done the right way, you'll stop all the common problems experienced with this kind of space.

Secrets to Growing Hardy Vegetables on Steep Slopes

You can grow more on steep slopes without erosion or danger to yourself. Three key considerations when gardening on steep and high slopes:

  1. Design for your lifestyle and the land.  Too often, urban homeowners plan only for the lifestyle or the ground to find conflict between the two.  Consider access first. A solid design plan lets you test ideas on paper, to experience your land before the first shovel full.
  2. Make the most of what you have.  Before dreaming of something better, ask yourself, “Am I getting the most of what I have?”  It is often not your land that needs work; your understanding of the earth matters most.  Because if you cannot get what you want from where you are, then starting over often makes it worse.
  3. It will look worse before it looks better.  Any paradise starts with a bit of chaos.  Work with your neighbors. Help them understand what will happen in the transformation of your property.  Many believe steep land is only for brambles.  You'll change that.

WARNING:  Working on steep slopes can be dangerous.  Hills and slopes are notorious for erosion, washout, and access dangers.  If you don't do it right, you can cause structural problems that distract from the beauty.

Always take the time to understand the structural elements of your property.  Work with a professional who understands earthworks to review your design plan. 

Don't worry about steep slopes; working with nature, you can have abundance at your home.  Design for the garden you want, then build for the land you have.  Growing on steep slopes is not impossible!

Hannah Maloney with her partner Anton is Good Life Permaculture. Lead permaculture landscape designer and educator in Hobart city, Australia.  In 2015 awarded the Tasmanian ‘Young Landcare Leader Award' for her work with Good Life Permaculture and co-establishing Hobart City Farm.  Learn more about her life design and landscape workshops at https://goodlifepermaculture.com.au/

Editor's Note:  Justin Hitt put together a “Managing Land Projects” program detailing earthworks at Prosperity Homestead.  You'll learn how to address erosion, create growing spaces, and plan your steep slope land projects. Click here for details.

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