Win a copy of For the Love of Paw Paws this week in the Fruit Trees forum!
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
permaculture forums growies critters building homesteading energy monies kitchen purity ungarbage community wilderness fiber arts art permaculture artisans regional education experiences global resources the cider press projects digital market permies.com private forums all forums
this forum made possible by our volunteer staff, including ...
master stewards:
  • Nicole Alderman
  • r ranson
  • Anne Miller
  • paul wheaton
stewards:
  • Jocelyn Campbell
  • Mike Jay Haasl
  • Burra Maluca
garden masters:
  • James Freyr
  • Joylynn Hardesty
  • Steve Thorn
  • Greg Martin
gardeners:
  • Carla Burke
  • Dave Burton
  • Pearl Sutton

Design Help - Current Mature Forest - 25% Slope

 
Posts: 8
Location: Middle Tennessee (southwest of Nashville) 6b
1
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hello all! First post but I've been lurking for a while. So here's what I've got. Wife and I are building a house on some land given to us as a wedding present. It's on the top of a ridge and the house will go on the flat spot. Septic on the hillside closest to the road. The entire hill is a mature forest. We will eventually inherit the property below us which currently belongs to my grandfather. That property extends beyond the picutre here up the hill on the other side of the valley/creek to the freshwater spring over there. There are some nice fields down there (roughly 2 acres each). The attached pictures will hopefully provide some context.  The mature forest is not very productive,  the old trees are really choking out everything. It's basically impossible to walk through the woods at this stage due to the saplings and bramble. We could easily get a little of the zone 1 stuff near the house but zone 2 would be the hillside and forest. So the question is, what to do? I mean, we could slowly clear it all down, create some terraces or swales using a backhoe but would that be worth the effort? It would be relatively easy to drop a food forest in on that field closest to our property and simply cut in a track to get there on a UTV. If we wanted to go ahead with clearing the mature forest, what would be the way to go, start at the top and work down, start at the bottom and work up? The picture is oriented with north up so you can see that slope faces south/southeast. If we start at the top, the new plantings will be shaded by the trees farther down the slope. Furthermore, what would be the planting strategy? The stuff planted downhill would always shade the uphill eventually. I'm just a little lost really and I don't even know where to start. Any help you could offer would be appreciated.
Screen-Shot-2019-08-05-at-4.22.49-PM.png
[Thumbnail for Screen-Shot-2019-08-05-at-4.22.49-PM.png]
Current Property
Screen-Shot-2019-08-05-at-4.24.21-PM.png
[Thumbnail for Screen-Shot-2019-08-05-at-4.24.21-PM.png]
Eventual Property
 
Posts: 36
Location: Eastern Washington
5
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Lots of interesting possibilities!
It depends on what you would rather have in place of such a forest. Food production? Enjoyment? Building materials? Or you could do nothing more than clear a hiking trail and have a tree ladder on top to look at the scenery.
What growing zone and rainfall are you working with?
 
pollinator
Posts: 244
Location: Basque Country, Spain-42N lat-Köppen Cfb-Zone8b-1035mm/41" rain: 118mm/5" Dec., 48mm/2" July
74
purity personal care books cooking food preservation writing
  • Likes 5
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hi Don and welcome to permies! (At least as a non-lurker)

As Grady said, everything in permaculture depends on climate, so it would be great to know approximately where you are, and whatever issues your climate has with torrential rains, windstorms, drought, wildfire... etc., etc. It's all about designing to moderate the worst of what nature has to offer in your area and taking advantage of the best. If you'd like to edit your profile to show your location and climate like a lot of people have here on permies, here are the instructions to do that.

Another thing it all depends on is your longer-term goals. So other than a Zone 1 garden for home consumption, what is your idea or your vision for the rest of the property? What do you want to turn it into?

I can see you have some serious slopes to deal with, so minimizing erosion will be a super-high priority. Alternatives to clear cutting would be good to look at.

As for all the undergrowth, maybe some goats could help? Don't know if animals figure into your plans.

Last, with the ridgetop location for your house. Ridgetop locations have great views but from a permaculture perspective they have a few disadvantages, which may or may not be important in your climate. First is wildfires, where a ridgetop makes you a sitting duck, so if that's a problem in your area, you really need to do a lot of fire safety planning. Other possible challenges are high winds (so you might want to keep a good buffer of mature trees as a windbreak, and difficult water supply. Among the advantages, of course, is full sun, as long as there's a clearing in amongst the trees of course.

Let us know a little bit more about your area and your plans and let's see what ideas you can get from the permies team here!
 
Don Givens
Posts: 8
Location: Middle Tennessee (southwest of Nashville) 6b
1
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Thanks for your replies!

So we're a little southwest of Nashville, TN. Zone 6b. According to Google, 52" of rain a year. I'm definitely interested in food production first. No real danger of wildfires. It doesn't get too windy but we do want to stay screened from the road for sure.

I'll follow this instructions to add location now!
 
garden master
Posts: 2748
Location: West Tennessee
825
cat purity trees books chicken food preservation cooking building homestead
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hey Don, welcome to Permies!

I want to recommend the book The Resilient Farm and Homestead by Ben Falk. We have a thread about it here: https://permies.com/wiki/20901/Resilient-Farm-Homestead-Ben-Falk

I just finished reading this book, and I think it will offer some great ideas and guidelines for you to consider. Ben may be homesteading in Vermont, and you're in Tennessee (along with me), but he is on a steep hillside like you have. The berms and swales that switchback down his hillside is such a clever design, with terraced areas for food producing trees & shrubs and also annual gardens, even rice paddy's. It's a great book and I think contains information that could really give you some ideas.
 
pollinator
Posts: 977
Location: Virginia USDA 7a/b
200
hugelkultur forest garden hunting chicken food preservation bee
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
This is totally different from my property, so I am just spouting off basically, but my kids were watching
Live Free or Die and there is a couple who have a setup on a fierce incline. Some of the videos may give you ideas. I would also suggest looking at old homesteads, and seeing how they laid out their plans. Most "new" homesteading is just trial and error that was common knowledge a hundred years ago in my opinion.

I got a computer that works! Yay!
 
Don Givens
Posts: 8
Location: Middle Tennessee (southwest of Nashville) 6b
1
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

James Freyr wrote:I want to recommend the book The Resilient Farm and Homestead by Ben Falk. We have a thread about it here: https://permies.com/wiki/20901/Resilient-Farm-Homestead-Ben-Falk



Thanks for the recommendation! I ordered it today.
 
Don Givens
Posts: 8
Location: Middle Tennessee (southwest of Nashville) 6b
1
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Dave de Basque wrote:Another thing it all depends on is your longer-term goals. So other than a Zone 1 garden for home consumption, what is your idea or your vision for the rest of the property? What do you want to turn it into?


I hope to eventually run a market garden in addition to the food forest garden. We're about 15 minutes out of Franklin, TN which has a number of excellent restaurants as potential clients in addition to a good farmer's market. This might be a bit of a pipe dream given that I have a full-time job already and am entering a Chaplaincy training program in the spring but there's time to figure it out in the future.

Dave de Basque wrote:As for all the undergrowth, maybe some goats could help? Don't know if animals figure into your plans.


I've thought about it but we do travel at least a few times a year and I don't forsee being able to get pet-sitting for goats at this point. There's the potential that my cousin (and his children) will build on the other end of the property (not shown on the maps) and maybe at that point the kids could be persuaded.

Dave de Basque wrote:Other possible challenges are high winds (so you might want to keep a good buffer of mature trees as a windbreak, and difficult water supply. Among the advantages, of course, is full sun, as long as there's a clearing in amongst the trees of course.


It's funny you should mention water and full sun. We're lilkely going to end up fully off-grid. Water from the closest utility district stops .4 miles up the road. The closest neighbors are doing rainwater and that seems like the best solution to me. With 52" of rain annually, it really shouldn't be a problem. As for power, we're in a rural preservation zone so they've decided that everyone needs to trench in their power lines to preserve the rural aesthetic. Given the nearest place we can catch power is around 2000' and the cost is going to be over $20/foot between materials, trenching, permits, easements and more, solar is looking rather attractive. So the trees nearest the house will be removed anyway which in turn should provide space for the zone 1 operations. I do think I'll put in a pole barn behind the house to use as a workshop and storage, so I think I'll use that roof to collect water for irrigation since it'll be at the top of the ridge. I haven't quite come to a conclusion whether that'll be in a catchment tank or in a pond or some combination thereof.
 
Don Givens
Posts: 8
Location: Middle Tennessee (southwest of Nashville) 6b
1
  • Likes 4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Thought I'd add some more pictures. It doesn't look like things are too bad in the winter but then you can see the pictures as I begin to cut in a road and things have changed. Having to clear a path for the county septic inspector.
Winter-View-1.jpg
[Thumbnail for Winter-View-1.jpg]
Winter-View-2.jpg
[Thumbnail for Winter-View-2.jpg]
Start-Cutting-in-Road.jpg
[Thumbnail for Start-Cutting-in-Road.jpg]
In-Progress.jpg
[Thumbnail for In-Progress.jpg]
 
pollinator
Posts: 293
Location: Piedmont 7a
89
hugelkultur trees woodworking
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hi Don, looks like a beautiful spot!  I might be inclined to maximize productivity of my level areas first. I would guess that the mature trees are doing a pretty good job of protecting the fairly steep slopes from erosion, so I would press those slopes into service only as a last resort, and only with a really good plan to terrace.
 
pollinator
Posts: 161
Location: Charlotte, Tennessee
42
goat forest garden chicken
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Just wanted to say that those pictures are so like our land just NW of Nashville (due W of Ashland City). Our house site slope isn't quite as steep, but we're planning on a modified terracing with hugelkultur!
 
master pollinator
Posts: 11367
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
739
cat forest garden fish trees chicken fiber arts wood heat greening the desert
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I envy all the lush beautiful understory you have.  May even be edible native plants in there.

 
Don Givens
Posts: 8
Location: Middle Tennessee (southwest of Nashville) 6b
1
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Tyler Ludens wrote:I envy all the lush beautiful understory you have.  May even be edible native plants in there.



Apparently, my great grandfather used to grow tomatoes in the area now covered in pine trees (the green swath on the map). When he got tired of those, he planted the pine trees because he liked the way they looked. Not really sure about the edibles, mostly sawbriar and the occasional fern. Now that we've begun disturbing the soil and leaf cover by walking around, lots of mushrooms.
 
Tyler Ludens
master pollinator
Posts: 11367
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
739
cat forest garden fish trees chicken fiber arts wood heat greening the desert
  • Likes 4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I'm not super big on Pine trees myself, so I would probably remove them, if it were my land.  If the land can grow hardwoods (oaks, hickory, etc) those would be preferable to pines as an overstory.

The pines can be milled for lumber or used as edging for on-contour paths and planting areas along the slope.  Just remember to always keep the contour in mind with all features.





 
Don Givens
Posts: 8
Location: Middle Tennessee (southwest of Nashville) 6b
1
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Erica Colmenares wrote:Just wanted to say that those pictures are so like our land just NW of Nashville (due W of Ashland City). Our house site slope isn't quite as steep, but we're planning on a modified terracing with hugelkultur!



I'm wondering if something like that might be the answer. I just really can't leave it this dense near the house and I'm not sure that simply thinning out a few trees will really accomplish anything. I'm just not sure how to plant if I decide to do terraces. I'm willing to bet that the microclimate mid-way down the slope with trees below removed would be really closer to a USDA zone 8 or 9. With all that southern exposure and the hill itself to hold onto heat.
 
Don Givens
Posts: 8
Location: Middle Tennessee (southwest of Nashville) 6b
1
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Tyler Ludens wrote:If the land can grow hardwoods (oaks, hickory, etc) those would be preferable to pines as an overstory.



Oh yeah. We've got several hardwoods out here. Some maple, walnut, hickory, birch, oak, poplar, ash.
 
Dave de Basque
pollinator
Posts: 244
Location: Basque Country, Spain-42N lat-Köppen Cfb-Zone8b-1035mm/41" rain: 118mm/5" Dec., 48mm/2" July
74
purity personal care books cooking food preservation writing
  • Likes 7
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
The conversation is starting to go in this direction a little bit, so just in case, you might want to read why building hugels/hugelkultur on a slope is a really bad idea. Make a terrace and put it there, sure. On a slope, looking for trouble.

A few other ideas that come to mind:

YMMD but I in the Tennessee summer heat would want my house shaded really well on the south and west sides. On the north you've got the road and as you say you want screening, so I might only want to leave the east open. Morning sun is nice. So I might make my garden due east of the house site.

I notice a lot of your contour lines south of your ridge run pretty close to north-south, veering from the ridge a little to the SW. That's pretty good though. So if you were going to open something up, I might, say, clear out a swath of trees between the 860 and 865 contour lines, starting due south of the garden site. Clear out enough so the garden is not shaded when the sun is in the S-SW even in midwinter. Being in Franklin, TN and at your elevation, your sun will be about 31° above the horizon at noon on the winter solstice. I would try to make an initial clearing that is pretty minimal for what you need, plant it up with low, erosion-avoiding plants real fast, vetiver grass if necessary but I would try to get in some blueberry bushes too (not specialists in avoiding erosion afaik, just delicious), and see how the soil reacts erosion-wise.

If I were going to clear out some areas south of your ridgeline, I would do it like that, very very carefully, in on-contour "stripes," never ever going up and down the slope. But most of that area will take a lot of investment in terracing to make useful for gardening, so I'd be very tempted to leave most of it be. Some fruit trees might work in a north-south-ish on contour stripe arrangement. Tree cover is a really good idea on slopes.

When you drive around now, take a close look in your area at any places where landslides and slumping has occured, slumping onto the road or whatever and have a look at the composition of the soil, the angle of the original slope, natural springs or streams that might be involved or whatever. That should give you a better feel for what is do-able and what is dangerous in your area. Though soil composition is very local and it runs in layers, so this will just give you a general idea. You might eventually want to get in touch with a soil-moving genius like Zach Weiss.

I would try to keep the high-quality, hardwood and mother trees, and clear out low quality trees in the areas you want to "lighten up."

I don't know if you ever forage for edible mushrooms, but if you know anyone who does, you might want to invite them out for a tour of your property with you and see what good mushrooming areas you might have. That's a "the problem is the solution" permaculture approach to taking advantage of your lush undergrowth. If you have some high-quality edible mushrooms around, you might make a bit off them at the farmer's market and you might not want to fiddle too much with those areas.
 
garden master
Posts: 2126
Location: Officially Zone 7b, according to personal obsevations I live in 7a, SW Tennessee
685
forest garden foraging books food preservation cooking fiber arts bee medical herbs
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Dave de Basque wrote:  I would try to make an initial clearing that is pretty minimal for what you need, plant it up with low, erosion-avoiding plants real fast, vetiver grass if necessary but I would try to get in some blueberry bushes too (not specialists in avoiding erosion afaik, just delicious), and see how the soil reacts erosion-wise.





The information I have found on vetiver grass lists it as hardy only to USDA zone 8. Does anyone have experience stretching their zone with this plant?

Or better yet, another plant option for those of us not in a tropical climate?
 
Erica Colmenares
pollinator
Posts: 161
Location: Charlotte, Tennessee
42
goat forest garden chicken
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Dave de Basque wrote:The conversation is starting to go in this direction a little bit, so just in case, you might want to read why building hugels/hugelkultur on a slope is a really bad idea. Make a terrace and put it there, sure. On a slope, looking for trouble.



Hey Dave, thanks for that link. I think we'll be OK, but I definitely learned some helpful info in the article linked within your link.
Don’t Try Building Hugel Swales – This is a Very and I Mean Very Bad Idea
 
Posts: 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hey we're almost neighbors. I live on chestnut ridge rd in Santa Fe. We have very similar land. About 40 acres of hilly woods.
 
pollinator
Posts: 261
Location: Ozarks
62
homeschooling goat dog tiny house chicken cooking building solar wood heat homestead
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
What ever you do, do it slowly, gently and carefully, otherwise you'll lose your top soil fast. That's quite a slope. I don't think I'd do much anything except up by the Hwy. In fact, it looks like some of the slope may have been logged and has a lot of erosion already?
When/if you get that bottom land, you'll be able to do a lot there.
 
Tj Jefferson
pollinator
Posts: 977
Location: Virginia USDA 7a/b
200
hugelkultur forest garden hunting chicken food preservation bee
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Joylynn Hardesty wrote:

Dave de Basque wrote:  I would try to make an initial clearing that is pretty minimal for what you need, plant it up with low, erosion-avoiding plants real fast, vetiver grass if necessary but I would try to get in some blueberry bushes too (not specialists in avoiding erosion afaik, just delicious), and see how the soil reacts erosion-wise.





The information I have found on vetiver grass lists it as hardy only to USDA zone 8. Does anyone have experience stretching their zone with this plant?

Or better yet, another plant option for those of us not in a tropical climate?



Joylynn, I am using “pampas grass” on areas prone to erosion. Really any grass will work, vetiver is just a specialist for wet/dry season climates. If you find someone with a clumping grass you like that seems to do well, ask if you can take some root sections in the winter. I’m trialing a couple bluestem types as well but I don’t know what they are since they’re foraged. The first summer I mow short just before they start growth (most are C4 so when air temps are in the mid 70s F) and plant a root section every 6”. I’ll split a clump into a bucket full of sections and use that whole bucket in a row maybe 3’ long for redundancy. The existing clumps fill in each summer so I’m able to make about 20’ of erosion control each winter. I’m going to ask a few people on my street to see if I can harvest their clumps also.
 
Tj Jefferson
pollinator
Posts: 977
Location: Virginia USDA 7a/b
200
hugelkultur forest garden hunting chicken food preservation bee
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I use the dead stems in sheaves for the sides of new hugels to keep the vines from invading, so I go through a lot of stems/canes. This also allows better growth next year because the old stems block the sun. I do mulch the clumps with woodchips some I’m stealing their normal mulch. I use comfrey as the rhizome barrier where there is low chance of erosion and bunch grass on steeper areas. So far the bunch grass has been through two hurricanes and performed well. I don’t think vetiver is worth trying because it would be marginal here but im interested if people have tried in zone 7 winter areas.
 
You save more money with a clothesline than dozens of light bulb purchases. Tiny ad:
permaculture bootcamp - learn permaculture through a little hard work
https://permies.com/wiki/bootcamp
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
Boost this thread!