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plant on steep slope


Joined: Jun 04, 2010
Posts: 18
Hi, I have a few acres on a steep slope ( about 30%) I would like to avoid terracing the slop because of the cost involved for the retaining wall...

What are the plant that can be grown? it has a east exposure...


Jami McBride

Joined: Aug 29, 2009
Posts: 1869
Hi Alexis,

You might want to tell people something about your climate and region you live in.  Also your soil type, and any other plants growing wild on your land.

The more information you can give the easier it is for people to jump in and advise you correctly for your situation.

Maybe even include a picture or two (when posting click on the Additional Options... to add pics to a post quickly.

All the best!

Joined: Jun 04, 2010
Posts: 18
here is more info:

the land in in québec canada, zone 4. It is heavily wooded with varius species, lots of maple. I would like to plant something that would control erosion, and at the same time provide feed for human or for livestock (sheep, horse, rabbit)

The soil is organic since a lot of leaf have decomposed for a few hundreds years. Under that is grey sand.


Joel Hollingsworth

Joined: Jul 01, 2009
Posts: 2103
Location: Oakland, CA
It seems like hazelnuts might be a good option. They can be grown as a hedge, and mulch piled upslope from the hedges. In time, this could produce a terrace without too very much work.

If you are clearing trees, and want to grow food plants on a slope with minimal erosion, you might be very interested in the hugelkultur article on this site. A berm made of buried timbers, maybe with two or three hedges between it and the next berm, could offer a place for annual crops to grow, with less risk of the soil getting away from you.

"the qualities of these bacteria, like the heat of the sun, electricity, or the qualities of metals, are part of the storehouse of knowledge of all men.  They are manifestations of the laws of nature, free to all men and reserved exclusively to none." SCOTUS, Funk Bros. Seed Co. v. Kale Inoculant Co.
Brenda Groth

Joined: Feb 01, 2009
Posts: 4433
Location: North Central Michigan
I would likely grow fruit trees on the slope and possibly nut trees depending on the room, I would like to use dwarf as if the slope is steep you wouldn't want to have to use a ladder to harvest your fruit.

I would then make beds around the bases of the trees and grow herbs, beneficial insect drawing flowers, dynamic accumulators, and mulch producing plants..like rhubarb and comfrey. I would leave paths between the tree rows so that I could get to them to harvest, but plant heavily under the trees with a heavy mulch spread around the plants.

for nitrogen fixers you could probably use things like peas, beans or even lupines.


Bloom where you are planted.

Joined: Jun 04, 2010
Posts: 18
thanks for the reply,

glad to hear that fruit trees can be grown on steep slope.

For between the tree, I tough of buying hay and just scattering it on the ground and letting the seed in it grow into pasture grass, anything wrong with that?

Tyler Ludens

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
You don't generally want to grow grass around orchard trees because it competes with the trees too much.  You might want to grow some deep-rooted perennial plants, maybe a lot of native flowering perennials to help attract pollinators to the orchard, as Brenda suggests (all her suggestions are good!  ).

See what sepp holzer does in his hillside orchards:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EjNGhEzmNdk

Idle dreamer


Joined: Jun 04, 2010
Posts: 18
thanks for the answer and for the link to the video,

I checked all the video on youtube about sepp holzer terrace and still can't seem to figure it out 100% ( if there's another thread discussing this, please point it to me)

He seems to make  "plateau" about 15ft wide on wich he plants various things, but the part that isn't flat ( quite steep!) just seems like earth. I would think that it would be a recipe for a landslide and that the earth wouldn't stay there.

I don't know if he plants something special on the steep part to prevent erosion.

Paula Edwards

Joined: Oct 06, 2010
Posts: 411
I would maybe try the hugelbeds too. This method would create terraces bit by bit. On the long run I would like to have terraces, but maybe the land can be converted slowly.
You can grow fruit trees there, but it will be a bit awkward to harvest the fruit, and if you like to prune them even more.

Joined: Oct 23, 2011
Posts: 0
Sepps slopes arent very likely to slide. I have a few year sin civil engineering and worked with sepp on some slopes, and understand his method pretty well. He doesn't cut past the 'angle of repose' which means that without water it cant move. that angle in general is 30%, but depends on the sub soil aggregate and topsoil consistency as well.

second, he actually pre-slides the slopes- a slide is trying to balance potential energy with gravity- once its found a resting spot it it stops. part of the observing sep does is to understand where a slope would slide to given its composition and heavy rains, and then he actually uses that 'stopping point' to build his slopes up from. having some of the CE behind me and being told over and over about slides, retaining walls and so on, I was very curious about his method and when I saw it a light went off like few ive known since I started this whole crazy permaculture thing. HE IS MOVING THE SLOPE TO ITS RESTING POINT, RATHER THAN TRYING TO STOP IT FROM MOVING. the implications are brilliant, especially considering that he leaves the top soil on top so it can be used for root production and thus contribute to the stability.

some photos of the I hosted  for sepp: http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/album.php?aid=65918&id=542063253

let me know if you have any questions, its winter and im on the machine more these days.


Joined: Jun 04, 2010
Posts: 18

from what you say, since my slope is already about 30%, I couldn't terrace it using this system...

Appart from the better irrigation you get with terracing, is there some other advantage? Could I just till the soil and seed like sepp does even on steep slope? Of course, it would be harder to pick the veggies up but appart from that... would it grow fine?

thanks again


Joined: Oct 23, 2011
Posts: 0
actually, you could terrace on that steep of a slope- terracing does not increase the overall slope grade, it simply posits the soil where it is least likely to slide. I could'nt say without a soils survey and a site visit, but if you have good bedrock and no anticline under your site, you probably are super fine for terraces.

advantages- you can walk on it, tehres more accessible growing room,  its less likely to slide when you dont want it too, and it looks kinda nifty. if aesthetics matter...

as far as tllling, I dont. pigs work great, wont run down hills that are as steep as yours and if terraced well pigs would be easy to paddock- a roving biological tiller of sorts.  throw seeds on that an viola! foods. without landslides or broken ankles. its still work, but better than carrying a hodad just to get in and out of your vege patch.

Joel Hollingsworth

Joined: Jul 01, 2009
Posts: 2103
Location: Oakland, CA
In one of the videos, Sepp mentions this began when he wanted to put in a roadway up the hill. My understanding was that the permits for roadbuilding were a pain, and would've meant following wrongheaded methods with culverts and trucked-in gravel such, so he decided to build the flat surface and plant it as he had intended, only to call it a garden bed rather than a road.

It seems like a major advantage of Sepp's method is that it makes a slope passable.
tel jetson

Joined: May 17, 2007
Posts: 3258
Location: woodland, washington
I really like Joel's hedge idea.  make the terraces out of living trees like the willow spiling that has shown up elsewhere on permies.  hazels sound like a great option for this, but there are plenty of species that would work.  I would bet that a wall of tree with roots extending into your terrace would be very stable.

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Joined: Oct 23, 2011
Posts: 0
yes. Jackes new book with be riffe with this kind of thing, I suspect. ecellent idear.

Joined: Jun 04, 2010
Posts: 18
thanks for all the answer,

So basically the pros of terracing is
-easier to work on the land
-better irrigation

the cons are
cost ( heavy m achinery)
-you losse som space ( the steep space between the terrace can't be used)

Something missing? 
Pat Black

Joined: Dec 20, 2009
Posts: 123
Location: Northern New Mexico, USA
how about sugar maples and make syrup?

maybe goats instead of sheep? there's very little that goats wouldn't eat. you could do pollarded forage trees or even coppice fodder.

Joined: Oct 23, 2011
Posts: 0
good call, NM Grower.

steep spaces between terraces are great for cane fruit; if  canes dont take your fall back is likely to be saskatoons and vacciniums, etc.  add some rock mulch and its curcurbit country, but grow crooknecks- theyll snag where a round squash might just roll down the hill . or plant  with hedge fodders for gots- if you have loads of leaf mulch, i suspect goats are more likely your eco-system compliment than sheep are.

a few fences on contour and goats and pigs could terrace it for you in a few seasons.

ive been very into syrup study lately- we cant do sugar maple effectively here but perhaps i can do red alder. you should be able to do sugar maple- a nice timber product in th long run, and sweet rewards while waiting.
subject: plant on steep slope