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Rocky, steep shallow soil. How to gain more space and build soil  RSS feed

 
John Watt
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Hi everybody. Would be possible to terrace a steep rocky soil like this?
It rains a lot in there, the soil is shallow and there are many rocky outcrops.
I am melting my brains trying to find out the most efficient and DIY way to gain extra space out of the cliffs and build good soil on this plot of land.

Thanks to all of you.

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Jennifer Wadsworth
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Location: Phoenix, AZ (9b)
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Hi John and welcome to permies!

I think I might not be grasping exactly what you're asking. Are you asking if you can somehow terrace the cliffs (I would say no) or the relatively flat land that looks like there is a sheep grazing on it? Or is there some other land that is between the vertical cliffs and the relatively flattish land below? Or is that land not as flat as it looks? In all honesty the area where the sheep are grazing looks like a terrace already!

Clarification please?

 
John Watt
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Hi Jennifer,

exactly, I wonder if I could terrace the cliffs on the picture, maybe with very narrow terraces?
Why do you think it is not doable?

Thanks for your answer
 
Jennifer Wadsworth
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I would say no, not without a HUGE amount of labor and expense. I mean, you'd basically be carving these out of rock, right?

Were you trying to capture more land for a specific purpose? There may be other ways to accomplish the same thing if we knew what that thing was?
 
John Elliott
pollinator
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Never say never, Jennifer. All you need to do is conquer your neighboring tribes, make them slaves and put them to work:



And then hope the Conquistadores don't show up.
 
Jen Shrock
pollinator
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Location: NW Pennsylvania Zone 5B bordering on Zone 6
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If I am seeing the picture correctly, it looks like nature has beat you to it! I would not remove the vegetation there because you will probably almost immediately lose what little bit of soil is there. If you could figure out some things that could be interplanted with what is there and not out compete it, then it could probably be done.

My bigger question is how in the world will you access the areas? Gardening with a jet pack on your back?
 
Jennifer Wadsworth
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Looks like these guys work with slopes a lot. Perhaps there is some wisdom there: http://www.laspilitas.com/garden/howto/slope.html
 
John Watt
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Thanks for all the replies guys.

John Elliott, the only tribes I could conquer around the area, are sheep and goats,
they're very stubborn, even as slaves they won't cooperate .

Jen Shrock, I like the idea of interplanting something useful there, the access to the area could be provided buy
some sort of steps, built using rocks maybe, but that's very challenging to be done, especially when I'll need to link the tallest
walls of rock that you can see from the picture.

Jennifer, thanks for the link, that's what I need, some ideas on how to deal with crazy landscapes like mine. I'd like to plant some
fruit tree and berry bushes on the mountain. I am looking for someone who managed to do this using terracing and raised beds on steep
rocks, exempt for the Inca . I'll be glad to receive any source of information or thought on this.

THANKS
 
Jen Shrock
pollinator
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Location: NW Pennsylvania Zone 5B bordering on Zone 6
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Your site looks so much more vertical than the examples given. It could be an optical illusion, though.

Just remember, if you do plant on it, all that stone will be a massive heat sink and gain you growing zones.

If you want to try it, just do it. You might come up with some surprises. You will definitely have to share your successes.
 
Peter Ellis
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Location: Central New Jersey
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I really cannot imagine terracing a near vertical cliff face. And trying to build steps up to the terraces - as much work as the terraces themselves.
But, I could see going for vine type plants growing up the cliff face. One possibility might be hardy kiwi.

I might try planting some vining plants at the base, and placing some anchors up the cliff above them to provide a trellis to help them grow up the face. Then similar methods in the places on the cliff face where it has already collected some soil and has plants growing. And I would probably go with some sturdy rope ladders as my means of access to my plantings.

This approach would avoid needing to sculpt the cliff face entirely. You just drive anchors into the cliff at strategic points and hang your ladders from some and grow your plants onto others.

Looks like quite a challenge.
 
Dan Boone
gardener
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Location: Central Oklahoma (zone 7a)
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That picture is daunting and I don't know how you'll handle the mechanics of access. But let's say you do find a way (like rappelling up and down on ropes).

My notion is that you would want to plant shrubby nut trees that can cling to the rocks anywhere you can find or create a pocket of soil. That way you can wait for the crops to fall from the trees when ripe, and tumble down the cliffs without harm into your waiting nets and baskets.

Fruit trees would work too if you could station animals to eat and benefit from the damaged fruit.
 
John Watt
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Thanks for all the replies.
These suggestions about nut trees clinging to rocks, vining plants and rope ladders are simply genial ideas that could give this land
a chance to bring some yields. Thanks for this thinking out of the box, guys.
I was considering the possibility of building, starting from the bottom of the mountain, some kind of raised beds framed by stones.
I could design them in a way that they would work as huge steps, that would connect the bottom of the cliffs to the higher levels.
Let's say I make each bed 1-2 meters tall, and I strategically locate them, maybe I'll have a chance to link the mountain altogether and plant the beds as terraces.

Is it just sci fi or someone did it before?

Thanks again for sharing ideas
 
Jennifer Wadsworth
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John Watt wrote:
I was considering the possibility of building, starting from the bottom of the mountain, some kind of raised beds framed by stones.
I could design them in a way that they would work as huge steps, that would connect the bottom of the cliffs to the higher levels.
Let's say I make each bed 1-2 meters tall, and I strategically locate them, maybe I'll have a chance to link the mountain altogether and plant the beds as terraces.

Is it just sci fi or someone did it before?

Thanks again for sharing ideas


You could do it. It's a huge amount of work and wouldn't gain you much extra growing space until you reach the top as each terrace would take up a certain footprint from the terrace below. Since your cliff is nearly vertical - the amount you lose and the amount you gain would be almost identical. And you would need massive amounts of soil. If you wanted to take a lazy approach, you could build your terrace wall and use it as a nutrient harvesting device for any soil/plant matter/water falling from the cliff. Over time, this area contained by the retaining wall would become filled with this debris like a gabion or leaky dam. Then you would build your next rock wall on top of that and let nature repeat the process.

Personally, I love the cliff the way it is - it's lovely.

However it did get me thinking on how to access something that is almost vertical. This made me think of window washers on skyscrapers. Perhaps you could have some "cliff boxes" on a pulley system on the cliff face. You can let them down to harvest from them.

There is also this idea for growing food on tall buildings: http://www.ecogeek.org/architecture/3139-vertical-farming-that-does-work



Or this:





 
John Polk
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I think that rather than trying to build trellises to grow things up the cliff, it would be much easier to let the vines cascade down the cliff. Instead of building infrastructure, let gravity work for you.

 
Leila Rich
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Nice rocks
Do you have much in the way of 'normal' land?
If so, I'm going to be really boring, and say let the cliff just be be a cliff and plant elswhere.
If not, I'd still plant elsewhere...
Maybe I'm a wuss, but rockclimbing and harvesting are activities that don't belong together in my world!
 
John Watt
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Thanks for all this inputs guys,

at the moment I am too busy at work, so I can't spend much time at the land, I'll keep you updated.
 
Michael Vormwald
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Location: Central New York - Finger Lakes - Zone 5
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LOL - I think that cliff needs to remain a cliff!
 
2017 Permaculture Design Course at Wheaton Labs
http://richsoil.com/pdc
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