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To Terrace of not to Terrace: Frost drain, and water retention, slope...

 
Posts: 75
Location: Montreal, QC mostly. Developing in Southern New Brunswick, Canada.
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Hi Zach,

I was hoping you would be able to clarify some of the details of Sepp's terraces for me. I think my spot is really asking for some terraces in many places as it tends to roll up and down considerably (not 1000's of feet...just around 125') in elevation throughout the property at some grades that are a bit steep in places - terraces 'seem' like they could be useful.

Is there some approximate grade where terracing just starts to be the obvious solution? What is too steep to otherwise be very useful? Are there areas that Sepp does not terrace? If so what are his motivations? It seems from everything I've seen (and I haven't read his stuff yet, only researched via internet) that the whole farm is terraces..is that so? I do understand Krameterhof is on a mountainside, so likely there was very little gentle enough slope to begin with but I Figure its worth asking!

Its my understanding that the terraces are constructed with a sort of swale/ditch at the uphill (heel?) side that catches any water running off the above hillside and percolates it into the soil of the terrace itself working somewhat like a swale, and also diverts some of that water to ponds. Is that true? If so how is the grade of the swale/ditch determined in order to provide flow to the ponds and also retain moisture in the terraces? Does water only flow to ponds when there is overflow? I also understand these sale/ditches accumulate soil/silt/nutrient that runs off the hillside. How is that then incorporated or used elsewhere?

Finally seeing as Austria is cold, as is my home, how is said cold air drained from the terraces? Is this a function of the swale/ditch as well? It is my understanding that Sepp's terraces are graded not perfectly flat but back toward the hillside slightly, again in the name of water retention. Does that not create a cold trap at the ditch as well? Or is it understood that the ditch is a cold trap and is therefore treated as a cold microclimate?

I could probably go on but I'm sure you get the picture! If there are details on this somewhere else online I'd be happy to be pointed toward them as well. Sepp Holzer's Permaculture is definitely next on my list to read.

THANKS!

j




 
Jay Peters
Posts: 75
Location: Montreal, QC mostly. Developing in Southern New Brunswick, Canada.
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Ohp! Just found this thread which actually answers most of my questions and is in my general neck of the woods to boot. Seems I was mistaken on some details :-/

 
pollinator
Posts: 304
Location: Montana
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Hey Jay,

As you found I think most of your questions are answered in that thread, but I'll do my best to answer the ones that aren't addressed.

Jay Peters wrote:Are there areas that Sepp does not terrace? If so what are his motivations? It seems from everything I've seen (and I haven't read his stuff yet, only researched via internet) that the whole farm is terraces..is that so?



Sepp hasn't terraced everything at the Krameterhof, but pretty close to it. In such steep ground the terraces provide not only water retention and stability but also access, which is a key consideration. So he had many motivations for terracing the majority of the landscape, the terraces are his access pathways throughout the property.

Jay Peters wrote:how is said cold air drained from the terraces? Is this a function of the swale/ditch as well?



The terraces are pitched in two directions to provide stability. So they are pitched away from the hillside (as opposed to into it) slightly and are pitched across the terrace as well. This allows frost to drain in two directions. Furthermore because they are high up in the mountains the coldest air falls away from them into the valleys each night. Spillways also provide an exit point for cold air, same as for the water.
 
Jay Peters
Posts: 75
Location: Montreal, QC mostly. Developing in Southern New Brunswick, Canada.
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This is awesome.

Thanks Zach!

j
 
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