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Slope or Flat? Permaculture Planning Pro and Con

 
Posts: 13
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Hi Permies!

My husband and I are researching for a land to practice permaculture in California.
We would like to get ideas about how to choose a land for permaculture projects: food forest, green building, rain harvesting (watershed and earth work), Solar energy, Passive heating, and etc.

Sloped land vs Flat land.

We found some interesting slope land with all type geographic for earth work, we can already see the rainfall going down the slope, but not sure the best way to build on a sloped land.
We also found some flat land which would work well for building on site, but not sure if we will get as much abundant in geographical resources compare with slope land.

What would you all see the pro and con in the two natural resources? Thank you a lot!
 
author
Posts: 946
Location: 6200' westen slope of colorado, zone 6
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I live on a sloped piece of land, with no truly flat ground at all, so take that for what it's worth-

Flat land is going to be easier to get started with. Planning on paper actually translates to the ground. Projects will come together faster, and be easier to execute well. Acess is much more straighforward.

Sloped land will allow much more creativity. Planning will need to be more clear, mapping is a bit tricky at times. Implementing your ideas will be more difficult, though ultimately more rewarding. Sloped land seems to feel larger for a given acreage. Drainage is a great thing, both for water and for frost. Slopes tend to have better breezes without necessarily being windy.

All in all, if you are in it for the long haul, I would prefer land on a slope. It just gives you more options, more microclimates. A completed project on a slope is such a richly textured
If you want quicker return on your efforts, or just want a simpler project, I would go with the flat land.
 
Chai Nelson
Posts: 13
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Thank you for sharing your experience! I bet you have a beautiful place!
I was climbing the text on the forum, and this post changed my mind about getting flat land (that was our initial thought).
I totally agree that slope is beautiful! https://permies.com/t/15826/permaculture/slope

Right now at the property we lived in, we also have a 45 degree slope in the back yard, where I use to plant fruit tree, shrubs, flowers, ground cover.... it turns in to a forest feel nicely!
I am also using the slope to try out some earth work projects, water catchment.... The plants thrives in there, and on the lower part of the slope, my vegetable and herbs garden get water from the rain collection.

Do you use terracing technique or any other technique on the earth work?

I plan to grow food forest incorporate Swale and Hugelkultur.
Building small green buildings just to learn and experience all techniques.
It will be much much fun no doubt!
 
Adam Klaus
author
Posts: 946
Location: 6200' westen slope of colorado, zone 6
67
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I build rough terraces around my buildings (barn, house, greenhouse, etc), just to make access nicer. But generally, my slopes are assets that I use to my advantage.

My pastures are moderately sloping with a thick sod cover, which is no problem for grazing cows, and is very helpful for my flood irrigation. My garden slopes nicely to the south east, which helps warm our dark clay soils from the cold winter. It is sprinkler irrigated so I have no erosion problems there. My orchard is fine on a moderate slope, it just helps with frost drainage and means that all my fruit harvests get wheelbarrowed downhill.

Terracing would be a lot of work and a huge amount of humus destrution, so it has never fit into my plans.
I use swales where appropriate, they are great with sloped land and a bit lost on a flat plain.
Hugels are up next, but suprisingly, they will likely run up and down hill. This is because then the hugelbeds will run north-south for more even solar absorbtion. And my winds blow out of the west and the east, and Sepp seems emphatic about running hugels perpendicular to the winds. And both access and irriagation will be simpler as well. FWIW, my land slopes about 1:10 in the garden.
 
steward
Posts: 7926
Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
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For me, I prefer land with some slope. Irregular land.
The farmer looking to put in 20 acres of lettuce, or 50 acres of hay wants the flat land.
It is easier to run tractors and other machinery on flat land
Easier to set up irrigation.

For these reasons, 'good bottom land' seldom stays on the market for long, and fetches higher prices.

For these same reasons, you have less competition for sloped land, and can generally get more acreage for the dollar.
Sloped and undulating property offers much more opportunities to work with 'edge'.
Edges can be some of your highest production opportunities.
Where canopy and open field meet is often the areas of highest diversity - flora and fauna.
Edges are where microclimates can give you a 1 or 2 zone boost, allowing less hardy plants to survive in your area.

The typical farmer only has 4 edges - his property lines. And it doesn't vary much at, or beyond the edge.

As Adam pointed out, mapping out and planning will be easier on flat land.
However, I believe that planning on sloped land tends to force you to think 3 dimensionally, vs putting the whole thing on a 2-D piece of graph paper. To me, this is an advantage, because your final product will be 3-D. I think the end results would be better if you went into the project with a 3-D mind set.

I think that I would get bored with 5 acres of flat land.
Five acres of undulating property could keep me occupied a lifetime.

Obviously, you don't want something that would challenge a mountain goat.
After all, you still need to get around it to work it.

Good luck where ever you chose.
 
pollinator
Posts: 1523
Location: northern California
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Other things being equal I think I would always choose to have enough slope to be able to lead water from high storage to points of use by gravity. In my current situation I have a grid powered well pump and pressure tank, and am acutely aware of how brittle that is in the event of a power failure, fire, etc.; as well as an ongoing expense. And because of the topography the only way toward gravity flow is to build a water tower of some kind. Sloped land means that, potentially at least, nature has built the water tower for you!
 
Chai Nelson
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We decided to go for the slope land! more photos will be coming!
 
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