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Planting horrible soil on a hillside

 
Scott Stiller
Posts: 290
Location: North Carolina zone 7
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Hi guys. Just moved into my dream homestead in central NC. The first business I want to attend to is planting an acre and a half that's already partially cleared. There are several problems. The whole area is on a pretty good slope and the soil is the poorest I've seen. There are also large ruts where rainwater has washed away all but the clay and rocks. At my last residence I used hugelcultures with great success but I wonder if there is more I can do to capture water, and nutrients to grow in permaculture fashion? Thanks
 
John Elliott
pollinator
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Fill the ruts with salvaged pieces of drywall from a building site (typical house builders discard over a ton of drywall pieces), and then cover everything with wood chips (a tree trimming company will be happy to have a place to dump their loads). If you work it right, this solution won't cost you a cent, and depending on tipping fees at the landfill, you might even make a buck.

Over time, as the drywall decomposes, the calcium in it will help to loosen up all that clay. Here is a promo piece by people selling gypsum, but since building sites are throwing it away (as drywall), why pay for it?
 
Ben Stallings
Posts: 156
Location: Emporia, KS
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Disclaimer: my knowledge of working on slopes is more theoretical than practical. My own land is very flat.

That said, it seems to me that if you've got ruts, it's because water is flowing in from the surrounding area, so if you want to stop the erosion you're going to have to address the area uphill, not just pile stuff into the ruts.

Also, since you've got exposed rocks already, maybe you can find ways to make them productive without soil. Many trees and shrubs, as well as sprawling plants like squash, will happily grow in the cracks between stones. This could be either a stopgap measure until you have enough soil (or organic matter) to cover the stones or a longer-term way to make the poor soil productive. As for the clay, comfrey will grow in very heavy clay and produce your organic matter on location, without your having to bring it in, if you can wait a few years.

Good luck!
 
Scott Stiller
Posts: 290
Location: North Carolina zone 7
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Thanks for the information gentleman. I must admit the drywall idea was something I'd have never thought of. I have also thought of digging deep Swales in front go my hugel beds. I love and appreciate your thoughts and would love more advice if you have any. Scott
 
Scott Stiller
Posts: 290
Location: North Carolina zone 7
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Thanks for the link Dale. Plenty of good discussion and ideas there.
 
Chris Duke
Posts: 30
Location: Torrance, Ca
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One thing I've been thinking about when looking for land is to find a lot with otherwise unusable hills to get more acreage at a better price than bottom land.

I'm planning on doing aquaponics, and I want to try planting the hillsides using NFT. The PVC pipes would hold back soil erosion and eventually may even create a terrace on the hillsides with soil backing up against them. Of course, they will need to be given 1/4" flow to drain. The PVC would need to be at least partially covered to keep the water temp optimal. I've only ever seen NFT used on tables in greenhouses. By laying the tubing on the hillside, the hillside would allow for the gravity feed needed to drain back into the fish tank/s. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nutrient_film_technique

Another AP idea I want to do is to set up vertical zip gardens on some of the hillsides. This way I could plant wild flowers for my bees in between the rows of towers, or other crops. I'll probably combine both systems intertwined to some degree to see how that works out as well. http://theaquaponicsource.com/2010/10/11/vertical-aquaponics-with-zipgrow-towers/

I figure these two techniques especially when combined would completely stop any hillside soil erosion, and provide at least 3x the amount of produce per hillside. Native grasses could even be preserved this way. And you would have some nice fish to fry without any heavy metals or other pollutants to be concerned about.
 
John Elliott
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Chris Duke wrote:One thing I've been thinking about when looking for land is to find a lot with otherwise unusable hills to get more acreage at a better price than bottom land.


Welcome to Permies, Chris. Are you thinking about doing this in Southern California? Because quite steep hills there are still quite usable. Take a drive through Fallbrook or Carpinteria and look at the hills on which some avocado groves are planted. Some of them are so steep that they have to use helicopters to pick up the boxes of avocados that are harvested.
 
Chris Duke
Posts: 30
Location: Torrance, Ca
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Haha yeah, been there. Actually I'm wanting to move up north of Fresno. Up on the foothills below 1200 feet. That way I could grow crops all year round in the AP outdoor system. Much higher than 1200 and I would be stuck having to shut down the outdoor system during the winter months instead of just changing crops for the cooler and wetter climate. Yeah, you can use the NFT on the side of a cliff if you wanted to. Wouldn't get any terraces that way, but it would work.
 
Chris Duke
Posts: 30
Location: Torrance, Ca
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AP short for Aquaponics
NFT http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nutrient_film_technique
 
2017 Permaculture Design Course at Wheaton Labs
http://richsoil.com/pdc
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