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A steep backyard garden (WIP, Looking for input on some idea's)  RSS feed

 
Anjovi Kulam
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Hey folks!

So my mother and I have been working on her backyard, trying to make something sustainable out of it.
So far what we have done:

-Re carved the hill making a stair way as well as a sloping garden bed and a flat area (for who know's what, we were thinking a chicken pen but that could be a long ways off)
-Repurposed an old rotting shed into a cute little green house
-Covered all of the hill with white dutch clover to help solidify the soil and help get the eco system going.
-Planted some crops (brocolli,corn,colli flower,tomatoes,etc.)

Before i show some pics I figure I'll drop some idea's for the future that are currently in the 'what if' stage.
- A chicken pen
- A giant compost pile (as shown in geoff lawton's soil video or here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7B8UlQtAcY
- Upgrading the green house making it bigger (will need to cut into the hill some more, and make more room for it)
alternatively
- Making an earthship/greenhouse as shown by the valhalla folks
(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WsZjd0HNgBE)
-Otherwise finding fruit tree's, green mulch, developing guilds, and other general stuff (that i honestly don't know too much about)

I'm mainly just debating what sort of things someone might recommend me off the bat. For a relatively small space such as this I want to eventually get things going so their working on their own.
some information about the place:
- plant zone 4/3
- about 2 inches of rain every month.

I'm curious as to what you think about the sloped hill covered in dutch clover and chocked out plants...I should probably be finding out if i should be going emergency mode to reverse what's happening their.

Many Thanks!
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Jen Van
Posts: 48
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Well it looks quite lovely and useful! I would work fruit and nut trees into the upper end before slope really gets going...sooner the better if you are planting by seeds or saplings...we are also on a mega slopeso I appreciate the work you've done and know it's not easy! We also planted clover cover crop at bottom "hole...major dip in yard from snow melt of entire neighborhood (seriously)...but we kept it relatively contained and away from the veggies. We let rabbit eat way and fertilize and then covered with leaf mulch and then soil and more leaf mulch to build the soil and "full" the dip a bit. Now you can still see the dip in pics but the area just needs a bit more soil and a few seasons to compost before we can really plant there. I would say (and I'm no expert) that anything that holds the soil and slows water in that slope is GOOD for now. I would make a nice thick ring of mulch in top of clover and around the good crops so they don't compete for water and nutrients. But I'd let it grow elsewhere...of course in MN, it dies with the winter and didn't really come back of us except in a few little spots...

We planted small trees, replaced buckthorn with elderberry and natives on side to help slow water flow and snow melt. Still working on bottom edge and creating a terraced area for veggies...and getting rid of the majority of the lawn we inherited...

Best wishes! Keep sharing!
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Anjovi Kulam
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that looks great jen! i can only imagine what it will look like in due time.

Love the idea with the mulch rings, definitely going to apply that right away. I did notice the other day that i'm getting a bit of soil errosion (cracks in the wet ground, perhaps their being watered too much?) on the hill side path. I've been thinking about a swale + berm at the top of the hill for fully conserving rainfall.

The main thing that's got me stumped about tree's right now is that i'm not sure if they will block too much sunlight. In this case the morning sun comes from the bottom of the hill (which they get a good fill of) but towards noon and mid day it falls behind my neighbor's house and tree's up the hill from us. Their still seems to be a decent amount of sun but i think if i plant tree's on the top of the hill it might block what little their is left.

Although i could also imagine this being a good thing as it can get pretty hot here and if the morning sun was enough for them the shade would probably be nice. I imagine the same logic could be applied to the greenhouse as well if it is right at all.

I was thinking though that if the hill side garden didn't turn out it wouldn't be as bad if i designated more of that hill side towards that earthship/greenhouse idea.

here's a rough sketch, just incase the hill side shape is a little unclear to folks (mainly want to emphasize the pathway in between the 2 corn patches, the one i'm noticing slight cracks in as i walk on it *of course i didn't label it on the picture. It's currently were clover is pointing*)

Otherwise we've been both debating on whether or not to roto till the hill side were the corn grows. I don't think it would be that helpful when considering you would essentially be resetting the soil ecosystem albeit with a fair amount of green clover as added mulch, but then again I'm hardly qualified to be sure of that. Would it be something that'd be worth doing when first developing the garden or should we just avoid it all together and keep everything intact from here on?

many thanks!
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Jen Van
Posts: 48
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A quick note on planting trees..you can always cut them down and keep roots in ground which will help stabilize the hill. I plan on cutting a few once they start blocking sun and then using the wood for projects... I have started (with only three posts so far!) a blog called Erosion Control to document some of my work...mainly for myself... https://reng13.wordpress.com I find that people working with slopes are often hoping to connect with others who have slopes--so keep us posted! I am inspired by your work so far!
 
Galadriel Freden
Posts: 362
Location: West Yorkshire, UK
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I have planted my trees mainly against the eastern and western fences of my small urban property so that they cast the least amount of shade on my garden. Maybe that's an option for you?
 
Anjovi Kulam
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Nice blog jen! That's something new to think about (cutting/trimming the tree's)
Otherwise as far as planting the tree's goes I think I've got 2 (maybe 3) good candidates for locations.

1st 1 is at the top of the hill towards the side of our lot, their's actually a patch of potatoes and grapes (still have to build a vine wall for them) growing at the side of the house which should be fine. I'm pondering cutting the tree that is their down to make more room...Not sure though I'm thinking the main focus will be the back yard until we run out of stuff to do (mainly to find out what to do before updating the neighbourhood value)

for the 2nd and possible 3rd they would be in a location that is out of the way of the rest of the garden. For now we were thinking of just making a lounge area until we can figure out what to do with it. (chickens is the 1st idea)

As far as tree's go, we were thinking of 1 apple tree, and a hazelnut tree. I've still got to put more thought into that.

I think that's the best option galadriel, the sunlight seems to work just perfectly in regards to that.
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Leila Rich
steward
Posts: 3999
Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
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Anjovi Kulam wrote:we were thinking of 1 apple tree, and a hazelnut tree

Just poking my nose in to say be careful about planting solitary apples-
unless you're confident there's a different cultivar nearby, or they're self fertile.
Even self fertile plants will nearly always do better if pollinated by another variety.
I suggest looking into multiple grafted trees-just make sure they're grafted so the blossom times overlap and they pollinate each other.
apple pollination chart
It's all a bit fiddly really!
I've never grown hazels but as far as I understand you just won't get nuts unless they're pollinated by another variety.
Growers usually have about 10 hazels bred for nuts to one pollinator, whose job is to pollinate the nut varieties.
I know you can get a nut variety with a pollinator grafted on to it, which could be an option
 
Angelika Maier
pollinator
Posts: 961
Location: cool climate, Blue Mountains, Australia
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To really use all of your land you need to terrace it. The Chinese did this with their rice fields and most ancient agriculture did this.
Slopes are not good, they are a nightmare to maintain rainwater runs off and you cannot do anything useful.
We did a retaining wall with railway sleepers and starposts, that is the easiest ever you don't need building skills. There are other methods too.
With a slope sun and shade becomes more pronounced as do frost pockets. Locks nice your garden.
 
Anjovi Kulam
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Leila, thanks for the heads up. Will definitely take a good look at that. I'll have to look up cross pollination.

Angelicka, that sounds like a great idea. I remember planning out a terrace/reinforcement wall and came across the berm/swale system and how to solidify slopes. I figured it would be worth a shot to see if it could be workable given the steepness of the hill. I have not gotten around to the berm/swales yet themselves (including one to go inbetween the 2 rows and bottom to catch rain on the hill side.

thank you so much for the input! this goes a long ways into figuring out what to do next.
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