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Gradual Terracing  RSS feed

 
                    
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It is a standard belief that the great terraces of the world (Indonesia, Phillipines, etc) were all built from scratch using very labor intensive methods - the walls were built to full height, soil was moved or hauled in using baskets and back-breaking effort, etc.   But how true is that belief?  What if there was a low-labor way of building terraces?

I've noticed that grazing animals tend to walk back and forth on the contour lines, and large animals like cows can leave noticeable flat areas.  I also believe that instead of building large walls and doing lots of work, one could build a very small wall and let gravity/erosion gradually move the soil.  These walls might only grow by a few inches each year, as part of a process of moving the rocks out of fields.  Or it could a 3 inch bundle of sticks or bamboo laid along the contour and staked into the ground.  With just a little work each year, the soil can be held in place, and terraces will form themselves - rather slowly if the slope is under permanent vegetation, but much faster if the hillside is cultivated and the soil is broken up and exposed to wind and water.

Is there anything in the permaculture literature about this?
 
Jennifer Smith
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I have no answers as I know little of permaculture but if I were to terrace my place it would be a little at a time as you suggest.  All my projects are little grow as we go if possable.
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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Absolutely, yes.

The Permaculture Designer's Manual has a series of illustrations showing each of the processes you've outlined, plus another showing vetiver grass.  One of the forum topics has a link to a .pdf of this book.

Vetiver grass (I had to look it up...) is long-lived and doesn't spread, to the point it's sometimes used to mark property lines.  But it's tremendously deep-rooted, and good at catching passing silt.
 
Jordan Lowery
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when i terraced my garden, it was not the hardest work, it was just a lot of work. you just start at the bottom and work your way up. i imagine if there was a few dozen or hundred people all doing something it would go by much faster than one would think.
 
Brenda Groth
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well i didn't do terracing per se but did do raised beds..and originally before our fire we had dozens of double dug beds for our french intensive gardens..a lot of very difficult work

after our fire..when we lost those beds to the construction of the new homes..i decided to do it an easier way here..by choosing to pile up material where i wanted the beds..rather than digging..so i sheet mulched a lot of organics on top of the soil and planted in the midst of them.

i honestly think the latter beds are better than the former..

kinda hard to tell though as they are fairly new yet..but they seem to be better quality soils now then the old beds
 
paul wheaton
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A few years ago, Joel Salatin wrote about the value of putting in permanent fences along countour lines.    It helps to build a sort of poor man's swale.

 
                    
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paul wheaton wrote:
A few years ago, Joel Salatin wrote about the value of putting in permanent fences along countour lines.    It helps to build a sort of poor man's swale.


I noticed that with a chain link fence we put at the bottom of a hill - it only took a few years to build an inch of debris and soil.
 
Brenda Groth
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edges, yes, permaculture teaching was the first place i heard about edges..every place you add an edge gives you an opportunity to build on it.

i try to create edges wherever possible
 
rose macaskie
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      I have a path running form top right to bottom left of the slope and it was very thin, and every so often i have dug a out a bit more of the slope to widen the path and it was not too hard, less hard than digging a hole that means you have to pull up the earth. i usually dig with a mattock which is much easier for some things.
      If i lived there and was doing a bit every day it would not be too hard. The hardest bit might be to get going and mark out the contour. i hate doing things i don't know how to do.  Digging is quite nice it is a bit of exercise and in these age of knowing more about whats good for your health it is great to do a bit of exercise, it makes you feel happier about your health. In madrid I can only think, "lor, i don't do hardly anything for my poor body except fattening it, sadly. agri rose macaskie.
 
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