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How to cultivate steep, humid slopes?

 
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Any other ways besides terracing, which is too expensive?

Typically slopes over 20 degrees shouldnt be cultivated, but the problem is that they’re so plentiful in my area. Many are steeper and covered with pasture grass.

I’d like to subsoil, plow and till these areas, but am worried all the soil will wash away in the first torrential rain, before the cover crops even sprout.
 
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Humid tropical slopes are the natural home of the banana. They don't require constant soil disturbance.

If I was looking to feed animals, it would be rows of trees and bushes planted parallel to the slope, with grass in-between.

I think I recall seeing your name on a thread that dealt with dense tropical grasses. That seems like an appropriate use of space, until you have some over story. I imagine there would be lots of sickle or machete work.

I've been shopping for a very similar land, and I don't imagine that I will ever put a tractor on it. The only way that I can see winning a battle with those grasses, is to clear small areas, get bananas or papayas or something else into the ground, and then be vigilant in cutting the grass around the new planting and using it as mulch. So there's no reason to cause erosion, because there's no end to available mulch.

Running heavy equipment, which will invariably become tangled, is a sure route to erosion and financial ruin.
 
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Slopes of 15 degrees are the point where terracing becomes necessary for growing any crops except for those Dale mentioned (trees).

If you look at any area that has had cultivation of food plants over the last 2,000 years any slope over 10 degrees was terraced (some of the best known are the terraces of the Inca civilization and the Mayan civilization).

While it might seem expensive (which building the terraces can be when looking at it short term) over the life of the terraces (hundreds or even thousands of years) and how much food you would expect to grow on those terraces, along with the added water erosion control they give,
They are far less expensive than cultivating the wrong way and loosing all the top soil to erosion.

If you are working without a "crew of helpers" it will take a long time to get many built, but it can be done and should be done up the hill (start at the bottom).
This way you can do any staggering needed to prevent rushing water from one terrace to the next.

On Buzzard's Roost we are installing terraces from the valley all the way to the ridge line. It will take several more years to get to the half way point but I work on one terrace at a time and that is just the speed with which I can get this particular job done.
We are using rocks from our land for the building materials and so far digging the trench to bed rock, where the terrace will be anchored and built up from, has provided almost all the rocks needed to build the terrace walls.
We currently have 1 and a half walls built and two more marked out and partially dug out the foundation trenches.

A subsoiler is not the thing to use or do on such steeply sloped land, all it will do is create a water plume that will blow out the bottom of the slope.
Using swale and berm building there will have the same effect, a man made spring caused by the water plume and a subsequent blow out at the bottom.
That leaves terraces, either stone or wood can be used to build the retaining walls, stone just lasts longer and goes together slower.

Redhawk
 
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Windy Huaman
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Dale Hodgins wrote:Humid tropical slopes are the natural home of the banana. They don't require constant soil disturbance.

If I was looking to feed animals, it would be rows of trees and bushes planted parallel to the slope, with grass in-between.

I think I recall seeing your name on a thread that dealt with dense tropical grasses. That seems like an appropriate use of space, until you have some over story. I imagine there would be lots of sickle or machete work.

I've been shopping for a very similar land, and I don't imagine that I will ever put a tractor on it. The only way that I can see winning a battle with those grasses, is to clear small areas, get bananas or papayas or something else into the ground, and then be vigilant in cutting the grass around the new planting and using it as mulch. So there's no reason to cause erosion, because there's no end to available mulch.

Running heavy equipment, which will invariably become tangled, is a sure route to erosion and financial ruin.



I think we’ll do something like that on the steep areas.

Here’s what I’m thinking:

We’ll probably push a walk-behind rototiller up to the highest point, and then work our way back down to the bottom row by row. We’ll stop every 4 meters or so to prepare one square meter of soil, then seed with cover crop and plant a tree directly in the middle of the tilled square meter.

This would reduce the chances of erosion, since most of the grass is still in tact. There will only be small, 1-meter islands of exposed soil that will rapidly be covered in Canavalia and Perennial peanut within a matter of days.

Of course this does seem like it will require a lot of maintenance. The flat areas can just run a bush hog attached to the tractor to cut back the cover crop every few months. The sloped areas, however, will have to be hand slashed or maintained with a push mower. Are there some better mowers designed for steeper slopes?
 
Dale Hodgins
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If you are in an area where labour is very cheap, it's hard to beat a man with a machete or sickle.--- In fact you should never try that, since he's armed.☺

I think for spot planting, that sounds reasonable. You may find it necessary to use the sickle on a spot before you run the tiller. I've gotten one tangled up in 3 foot Timothy grass. Some of the larger grasses are going to wind up into a solid mass, if they aren't cleared away first.

If I were spot clearing tall grasses, I would probably use my cordless electric hedge cutter, since it allows it to be sheared into whatever size I want and it drops straight down instead of being flung all over the place. That's handy if you want to use it as mulch.
 
Windy Huaman
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Dale Hodgins wrote:If you are in an area where labour is very cheap, it's hard to beat a man with a machete or sickle.--- In fact you should never try that, since he's armed.☺

I think for spot planting, that sounds reasonable. You may find it necessary to use the sickle on a spot before you run the tiller. I've gotten one tangled up in 3 foot Timothy grass. Some of the larger grasses are going to wind up into a solid mass, if they aren't cleared away first.

If I were spot clearing tall grasses, I would probably use my cordless electric hedge cutter, since it allows it to be sheared into whatever size I want and it drops straight down instead of being flung all over the place. That's handy if you want to use it as mulch.



Thanks for the hedge trimmer suggestion.
 
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Grow squash. the vines'll just grow over the raw ground, putting in roots as they go. Roll em down the hill in the fall.
 
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