February 27, 2014

Hillside Hugelkultur Revisited

Steep Slope Stabilization 6 Month Check Up

So its been over 6 months since we started our first hillside hugelkultur test and I’m happy to report that the results look good. If you’re unfamiliar with the process take a look at this post here.

Over the summer the hillside was clearly very damaged with little more than rocks left on most of the hillside. There was some pioneering vegetation but if you looked under the leaves more and more of the roots on the downhill side were being exposed and as long as the slope was allowed to remain as steep the problem was only going to get worse.

Here is a photo of part of the hill as it looked last summer.

Hillside Hugelkultur Experiment - Bare Hillside
Typically a hillside this steep would need a retaining wall to keep more of it from disappearing. Since we didn’t have the money or stone necessary to build a wall we decided to take a radical approach to reshaping the hill based on replicating what would happen naturally if the hillside was in a forest.

In the forest trees and stumps prevent fallen trees from rolling to the base of the hill and help to build the soil up. Since we didn’t have stumps to do so for us we had to use posts. We laid larger cut logs down and backfilled with smaller carbonaceous material and covered that with some mulch, compost, and leaf debris.

Hillside Hugelkultur Experiment - Logs and Limbs
^ Six months out, even with it still being very much winter the growth on the top is looking great. We’ve created a terrace essentially and it’s supporting all sorts of new growth that sprang up over the summer and fall. The nicest thing for the gardeners who are working in this garden are the strawberries but for me it’s things like plantain and clumping grasses that will help to root deep into the soil.

There is clumping grass taking over below the logs too on nearly all but the steepest parts of the hill. Adding a lower set of logs and repeating the process will help with that. Now I just need to convince the gardeners to plant something there which can hold the soil when the front of the logs eventually break down. They’re probably not going to want it to be grass, especially if I’m encouraging them to let it grow fairly long but if I can find the right perennial cover crop I’m sure I can both make the gardeners happy and can keep the hillside stable without needing to do all the work that would have been required to build a wall.

Here are the photos from this weekend so you can see the results for yourself. As usual, if you have any questions please don’t hesitate to share them.

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February 27, 2014 | W.D.Orkoskey
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