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How big of a dealbreaker is north-facing slope??  RSS feed

 
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I'm thinking about buying a piece of land. It's in Portugal, so zone 10. 76.000 square meters, which is bigger than I could hope for. 10.000 is more or less (the minimum) of what I'm going for. We're still not sure what we'd do with the extra space. Basically, we want to build a house with vegetable garden, develop a food forest, and possibly build some small buildings to rent out/organize events (like weddings). I still have to go visit the terrain for the first time, so the following is an estimate from provided information and pictures, google street view and satellite photos:
It seems to be located in a north (northeast)-facing slope. I'd estimate a steady 10% inclination. 2/3 of the land, I think, is on this slope. The other third is flat, lying at the bottom of the slope.
The buildable area is 4000 square meters, but I do not know yet where on the terrain this area is located. There is a small river (probably seasonal).
The size (both buildable and total), location and price seem absolutely perfect! Better than what I've found in the last year. But I'm wondering how big of a dealbreaker this northfacing slope is? It'd influence 2 things: passive solar design of buildings and growing plants (difference between annuals/perennials?).
The good thing is that the plot is so big, that even if 1/3 is not affected by this slope, that would be big enough for what we want to do. Obviously, I'll know a lot more once I see the plot, but I already wanted to ask the question. So that when I do visit, I have more information to take into account. Also, if I'd buy, how much down could I push the price with this north-facing argument?
 
master pollinator
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For me in a hot sunny climate, that north-facing slope would be a big plus.  The north-facing slope on our place is much more moist than the south and west facing slopes.


If you get any frosts, a north-facing slope can help fruit trees bloom later, avoiding frost-killed blossoms.

 
Posts: 315
Location: Amtkel – Abkhazia · 400m elevation · temperate climate
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Having lived on a north facing slope for two weeks, I would not build on one in Abkhazia. It is great for trees and animals, but not for sun (and warmth) loving humans.
But if you have a small piece that gets enough sun, I don't see much of a problem.
 
Philippe Elskens
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Sebastian Köln wrote:Having lived on a north facing slope for two weeks, I would not build on one in Abkhazia. It is great for trees and animals, but not for sun (and warmth) loving humans.
But if you have a small piece that gets enough sun, I don't see much of a problem.



Good to hear that it's great for trees and animals! So the extra moist trumps the lack of sun? Or am I overestimating the difference in light between gentle slopes; is it more a temperature thing than light?
I had to google Abkhazia; it seems to have a relatively similar climate to Portugal. Maybe slightly colder?
And yeah, it will definitely depend on how large that flat piece is!!

 
Philippe Elskens
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Tyler Ludens wrote:For me in a hot sunny climate, that north-facing slope would be a big plus.  The north-facing slope on our place is much more moist than the south and west facing slopes.


If you get any frosts, a north-facing slope can help fruit trees bloom later, avoiding frost-killed blossoms.



Interesting! Hadn't even thought about that. I don't expect any frost where we are, but some extra moist is definitely welcome!
I'm assuming that I would have to plant different species compared to a south facing slope?
 
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How much rain? North facing can get very soggy in a wet climate with little sun.
I once worked on a farm in September and only then we got our first cut of grass in. It had been a gloomy summer, grass didn't want to grow and neighbouring farms who had made an attempt to cut it got their tractors stuck. This was Scotland, a comparable climate zone, but Portugal might still have different weather, although I believe the north of Portugal is on average very wet.
Climate change can affect things though, all of Europe was very dry and sunny this year and if this is a trend, north facing sounds more attractive in a warm climate.    
 
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If you look up bealtaine Cottage on YouTube she's done her food forest on a North facing slope in Ireland zone 8 I think so it is doable. And she's in her 60s and on her own with only hand tools and a mower
 
master steward
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I have a tree sheltered north-facing slope (https://permies.com/t/33637/Steep-North-Facing-Slope). Mine's steeper than yours, and at a more northernly latitude and a wetter climate, and I still grow food. If I weren't surrounded by trees, I'd probably have a longer growing season. I personally wouldn't worry at all about a 10% grade slope in a hot/dry climate like yours.
 
garden master
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If you have a smart phone, you may consider obtaining an app for tracking the sun's trajectory. This would be a great tool to identify where to place the gardens and solar panels. I have not used one, but it looks like a great tool.

 
gardener
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Joylynn mentioned a sun tracer app, I found sites on the net that showed me what the sun path is at my latitude. I can probably dig one up if you want. Might have a website in my notes or bookmarks.
Edit: SunEarth Tools That one looks useful, might be too number infested for some people though.

A lot of it depends on what vegetation is on the property. I bought a north slope, cleared for pasture, that I'll be planting trees in order by height so they all get sun. I think as long as you get sun on the slope, and 10 degrees certainly should, temperature and water retention (or lack of) will matter more in the long run. As to whether you can negotiate the price down due to this, most people don't care about slope orientation. A seller who is not desperate for the sale won't care, if you don't want it, someone else will.

Personally I like the land with a north slope that I bought. The sheer number of microclimates are amazing, and fun. I mapped a bunch of it, on the thread in my signature file about the land (Gardens in my mind.) I am in southern Missouri, US, zone 6 and the hot muggy summers are hard on plants, having slope means I can place them where they have the best chance. The slope also lets me retain water easily, and water harvest easily.

 
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My place is on ridge and a north facing slope. I have the solar panel, and will place the house, on the ridge, so that rain drains away. I find my plants do well on the north slope -- but then, my site is within the tropics, so there is a period every year in which the sun passes to the north.
 
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I have a north facing slope on my small farm in Northern California, in a region that has hot summers and rainy cool winters. The north slope is as productive as the south slope. I grow cherries and cider apples on the north slope and the colder winter temps are a plus for these trees. My large chicken coop and run are situated on the north slope. My garden is on the north slope too and does fine. The only negative is not that the slope is facing north, but the slope itself. Sloped ground is more difficult to work with. The garden had to be terraced. It's more difficult getting equipment on a slope. Water drains more quickly from a slope so irrigation needs are greater. And nitrogen is water soluble so rainfall and irrigation have the potential of slowly siphoning nitrogen with any runoff, and I recently tested the soil in my garden and it's shockingly devoid of nitrogen even though I've worked hard to prevent water loss and use good garden practices that should add nitrogen. Good luck!  
 
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