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Comprehensive 'How To' of Sepp-style terracing?

 
Posts: 947
Location: Graham, Washington [Zone 7b, 47.041 Latitude] 41inches average annual rainfall, cool summer drought
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Does anyone here have any resources [or advice] regarding Sepp Holzer style no-retaining-wall vegetated-embankment terraces for broadacre applications?

Sepp Holzer's Permaculture and the documentaries [and my google-fu regarding such a terracing method] seem to provide inadequate instruction, to me at least.

EDIT: it occurs to me the title might be misleading, I'm certainly not expecting a single article or video to teach this art [though that would be amazing] but rather just looking for additional resources to help me really grok how to accomplish it.
 
Kyrt Ryder
Posts: 947
Location: Graham, Washington [Zone 7b, 47.041 Latitude] 41inches average annual rainfall, cool summer drought
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Was my Title too specific? I'd really appreciate some advice or suggested resources.
 
Posts: 42
Location: Mid-Missouri
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I'd sure be interested in the same myself, hope somebody has some info. Here's what I've got, notes from his Permaculture book, pages 24 - 32:

Terraces and Paths
  • Design terraces so they can be used as paths and provide access for mechanized farming equipment.
  • When putting in roads, have a slight rise down the middle to disperse water.
  • Make shortcuts and paths to connect the terraces so you don't have to travel the full length of the terrace when you want to maintain the land.


  • Building a Terrace System

    Width
  • Best to make sure that the entire terrace can be cultivated or harvested in a single trip by your machinery.
  • Managing two terraces 5 meters wide is easier than a single terrace 10 meters wide- also requires less dirt to be moved.
  • Consider the current gradient of the slope, the steeper the slope, the narrower the terrace should be.
  • Also consider soil, ex. fine loamy soil on very steep slopes has greatest danger of erosion so only very narrow terraces.


  • Gradient
  • Gradient of the terraces should be as low as possible and less than 15 to 20 percent.
  • The gradient of the terrace embankments can be 1:1 if the soil is stony and 1:1.5 to 1:2 if soil is sandy or loamy.


  • Risers and Separating Material
  • Build risers in order to stabilize the embankments.
  • Remove topsoil and layers of earth until you get to to solid and stable material.
  • Riser forms the foundation of embankment and is angled slightly into the hill.
  • Build up embankment replacing the excavated layers, topsoil back on top.


  • Working with Water
  • If little rain, angle terraces slightly against hill to help retain water.
  • Make sure terraces don't channel water.
  • With loamy subsoil, Do Not angle any ditches into hill due to danger of landslides.
  • With heavy soils, surface water must be drained off over a large area, best achieved by creating terrace with slight downward angle.


  • Stabilizing the System
  • Large stretches of continuous ground should not be altered because increases danger of landslides.
  • Carry out large-scale projects gradually, over a long period of time.
  • First year, terraces are made at the top, middle and bottom of the slope and planted.
  • Second year, more terraces created between original terraces once originals are stable.
  • On steep slopes, first terrace should be on bottom and work way up- If material slides down, lower terraces will catch it.
  • Can place stones on the terraces for additional stability and heat storage.
  • Sow and plant immediately after dirt work is completed, especially good if plants have different depth root systems.
  • Mulch with leaves or straw after planting.
  • To ensure trees and plants root well on embankment, make embankments very stable and built up using loose soil rich in humus.
  • Sepp method differs from conventional terraces, where embankments are heavily compacted and smoothed out.


  • Managing Terrace Culture
  • If soil good enough, vegetables and cereals can be grown immediately.
  • If soil not good enough, plant green manure crops, especially sweet clover and lupins with deep root systems and nitrogen fixing.


  • Humus Storage Ditches
  • Dig a ditch on into the base of some terraces, up against the embankment.
  • Ditch should be on contour, low, and wide.
  • Ditch will supply terraces below with water.
  • Careful with humus ditches on heavy soils! Danger of landslides is greatest. Start small.


  • Here's a drawing similar to what Sepp has in his book, but please note that I might've made the Riser too small:

     
    Bryan de Valdivia
    Posts: 42
    Location: Mid-Missouri
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    Hiya Kyrt,

    I've come across something that might be of interest on the how-to of earthmoving. Nothing specific to terracing, but it has good drawings on using a dozer to cut benches (quasi-terraces) into a hill. Check out Section 2-15, starting on page 20, of the US Army Field Manual of Earthmoving Operations. Also has other chapters on using backhoes, loaders, etc. It's in the public domain and available here:

    http://www.constructionknowledge.net/public_domain_documents/Div_2_Site%20Work/Earthmoving_Operations_Army_FM5-434%202000.pdf

    Have you come across anything else yourself?
     
    Posts: 44
    Location: Western PA
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    This fellow came to mind because he has acreage and is contouring it in the hills of Pennsylvania. He isn't doing hugelkultur but rather a system of swales. Check out his Youtube channel
    I met him at the Mother Earth News Fair but I'll be hanged if I can remember his name.

    Tenth Acre Farm did a system of check terraces at the community garden but it wasn't a farm. It is a project that I am also adapting for my urban yard. It might be too difficult to apply to larger acreage. https://www.tenthacrefarm.com/2014/10/heres-a-quick-way-to-terrace-a-hill/

     
    Kyrt Ryder
    Posts: 947
    Location: Graham, Washington [Zone 7b, 47.041 Latitude] 41inches average annual rainfall, cool summer drought
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    Thank you very much for the analysis and PDF Bryan, you pulled things out of Sepp's description in his book that didn't even occur to me.

    Linda Listing wrote:Material regarding swales and Retaining Wall Terraces


    It seems I may have been lacking in my description of what I'm after. The youtube you linked is swales on gentle slope, the second is small scale retaining wall terraces.

    What I seek to do is carve terraces and embankments into a steep hillside in the way Bryan explained in the post below mine.

    On that note, I was asked if I found any further resources and the answer is yes.

    This Video helped me to see and comprehend the terracing in a way that FAR surpasses the overhead shots provided in the documentaries of the Kramaterhoff filmed back when Sepp was farming it.
     
    Bryan de Valdivia
    Posts: 42
    Location: Mid-Missouri
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    Hey Kyrt,

    that's a good find on that video, I'll take a closer look. I've also come across a little more.

    There's a link on this thread https://permies.com/t/40534/earthworks/Sepp-Holzer-project-plans to a Dropbox folder containing Sepp's project plans!

    In that Dropbox, there's quite a bit of drawings and pictures. Of special interest, I found this pic here in the first folder, armenteras:



    There's a good chance that the project plans for that picture are in the documents, but I haven't had a chance to take a look at everything. Also, everything's in German. As luck would have it, I do know some German, but I'm afraid my vocabulary is not bent towards ag or landscaping.

    If you have a dig in the Dropbox and find something you think might be useful, send me the link please and I can try to decode it. I've got other things on my plate at the moment so have this on my 'later' list.
     
    Posts: 130
    Location: Wyoming Zone 4
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    I too have questions on terracing.  The biggest being: where do I start?  At the top or at the bottom?  I will be working on a steep, highly eroded slope, which gets flooded once a year in the springtime.  Do I try to catch water at the top the first year, or at the bottom?  I seriously doubt I can get it all done in one summer and fall as I will be using a shovel and pick axe.

    Thanks for any input!
     
    Posts: 34
    Location: North East Ohio
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    Hi, I can translate you anything from german to english. Just provide me with a text and I am glad to help you.
     
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