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Northern Slopes and Permaculture  RSS feed

 
Patrick Freeburger
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Have anyone done successful hugelkultur / permaculture on a Northern or the shaded slope (so a Southern Slope in the Southern Hemisphere)?  I would like to hear about it (and please share pictures).  I only know of terraces on Southern (sunny) slopes.  Sepp's farm faced South(ish).  I know he was helping his neighbor on the opposite side of the valley, but his son said there were some challenges with the lack of the light - in part due to the shorter season, which is less of an issue in my more mild climate.  (the answer was in German so I missed most of it.)

I work in Silicon Valley (key word being valley) and I am looking for some land on the slopes of the nearby mountains to the North or South, but if I ignore any Northern slopes, I've effectively cut my available search properties in half.  Paul and others have convinced me that I can get by on a lot less water than I may otherwise expect and slopes are OK for what I'm trying to do, but I need as much sun as I can get, right?  Especially in permaculture where layers are so important - there will be a lot less light to get down to the bottom.  There are shade loving plants, but most fruit tress and vegetables are sun loving.

There are a few advantages of a Northern Slope: better moisture, heat of the hugelkultur could negate the shorter season, and Wofati structures can work as well or better.

So if I find a well priced piece of property on a Northern slope should I take it or do I hold out for a Southern Slope?

Thanks in advance.  I feel like I ask more questions than give useful answers, but I guess that is what stage I am at. Hopefully, I will be able to add more soon.

Patrick

 
                          
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Patrick, you're in a semi-arid Mediterranean climate.  In my coastal Maine climate, I'd avoid such a site, but in yours...?  You won't get as much sun there, but that will mean less water stress in the summer, possibly allowing for greater diversity.  It will also matter how close you are to the coast and how much fog moisture you get.  If you're looking further inland where it's hotter and drier (and cheaper), a north slope may become more and more attractive.

Look at nature as a model.  Find analogous sites in your area and see if they're sprouting groves of trees in otherwise grassy hill country. 

Dan
 
Brenda Groth
pollinator
Posts: 4437
Location: North Central Michigan
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northern slopes are good for fruit trees, at least here in Michigan but I'm not familiar with Calif.

I haven't done much in the way of hugel on northern slopes (mine are on a flat sunny area) but I have planted northern slopes and shady areas..and I have cherry and apple trees on mine and they work out very well..mine are underplanted with hostas, ferns, ground covers and some dwarf spirea and barberries as well as some strawberries and violets..

I was absolutely shocked to see that one of my north slope areas had bare ground this week when most of my property is still covered with snow..i'm thinking..hmmmm..is this a microclimate here??

good luck with your finding land but I wouldn't count out a north slope..
 
Richard Kastanie
Posts: 99
Location: Missouri Ozarks
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Northern slopes are especially good for spring-blooming fruit/nut trees in areas prone to spring freezes which can kill the blossoms and thus that year's fruit crops. Trees on the north slopes break dormancy later than those on south-facing slopes, so a freeze at certain times will catch the trees on the south slopes in a vulnerable state but not the ones on the north slopes. Regions most prone to damaging late freezes aren't the coldest areas either. For instance, where I live in the Missouri Ozarks is more prone to spring freeze damage than where I used to live in southern Minnesota, the reason being that while both locations experience wild changes in spring weather, Minnesota has a faster increase in average spring temperatures (having started out so cold). In Missouri the problem is that it can be warm enough from mid-March through early April to bring most plants out of dormancy, but it's still possible to get hard freezes through the first half of April. We can have a month of warm weather with no freezes followed by a hard freeze. Too many warm days (and especially warm nights) at this time of year gets me worried, especially since I have a number of trees on a south facing slope.

As has already been mentioned, north-facing slopes don't lose moisture as fast as south-facing ones. In the ozarks, north facing slopes often support better quality forest stands than south facing ones. It's not just the moisture stress, more intense sun and heat also tend to mean a lower organic matter content of the soil, as it breaks down faster. Less organic matter on the south facing slopes then makes the moisture stress worse. It's the same principle on a micro level as why soils in the south tend to have less organic matter as ones in the north do.

Of course, it all depends on your particular climate and region and what your goals are for the land, all aspects have their advantages and disadvantages.
 
Jonathan 'yukkuri' Kame
Posts: 488
Location: Foothills north of L.A., zone 9ish mediterranean
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Castanea wrote:
Northern slopes are especially good for spring-blooming fruit/nut trees in areas prone to spring freezes which can kill the blossoms and thus that year's fruit crops. Trees on the north slopes break dormancy later than those on south-facing slopes, so a freeze at certain times will catch the trees on the south slopes in a vulnerable state but not the ones on the north slopes.


This^

Siting your house is another issue to consider. 
 
Patrick Freeburger
Posts: 81
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Thanks for your replies.  The Santa Cruz mountains to the South are very wet and pines and redwoods grow everywhere.  The Oakland Hills to the North are pretty dry.  The grazing land I was looking at was mostly grass on both slopes with a few trees by the stream beds, but when I looked at a nearby (less disturbed?) regional park, almost all of the trees were growing on the Northern slopes.  I am sure it has to do with moisture and its ability to retain it.  It's good to hear people have had success with fruit trees.  I was trying to figure out if the North side of a hugelkultur on a Northern slope has twice as much to overcome or am I just over analyzing it?


northern-slope.JPG
[Thumbnail for northern-slope.JPG]
 
Brenda Groth
pollinator
Posts: 4437
Location: North Central Michigan
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i would think that your observations of the trees  growing on the north side of the slopes means that you were right to think that they would grow trees well..sounds like they might be a bit acidic so you might have to add some lime for fruit trees..and forests are somewhat similar to hugel as they drop their own branch/wood litter and bury it with their leaves/needles.. in the duff
 
Mekka Pakanohida
Posts: 383
Location: Zone 9 - Coastal Oregon
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PatJFree wrote:
Thanks for your replies.  The Santa Cruz mountains to the South are very wet and pines and redwoods grow everywhere.  The Oakland Hills to the North are pretty dry. 


That land is dry for one very good reason, it was deforested.  There are several areas along BART where there are wilderness areas with very real, very live cougars & deer still walking around.  Those areas that are forested, ((say the hill range along san pablo avenue between berkeley and El Cerrito Del Norte Station)) are very wet, and capture tons of moisture.

Those Oakland hills are crying for more OM.

I also remember that area, its tons of grassland with scrub oaks on those northern hillsides.  The Bay area is a haven for all sorts of microclimates.  You may think one thing in an area when buying property or even renting a domicile, but living there is generally a lot different then expected.
 
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