earthworks – terraces, contour ditches and tree trunks

My permaculture readings have focused me on developing an edible forest garden and earthworks figure prominently in my designs.  Although I already have a number of different fruit trees in my orchard I decided to expand the selection and expect, by the end of November, to receive 2 goumi, 2 pawpaw, 3 kiwi (2 female, 1 male), and a medlar, aronia, sour cherry, and juneberry.  With these pending arrivals I have been at work preparing their planting sites on the side of the hill.

The earthworks are dug by my scruffy Takeuchi tracked bobcat.  My approach is to terrace the slope with the terrace canted to the slope and with a contour ditch in the middle of the terrace.  So rainwater on the terrace will move to the contour ditch and that which misses the contour ditch will move to where the terrace intersects with the   slope.  I fill the contour ditches with logs, for several reasons: a) my readings suggest that grasses promote bacteria and trees promote fungi and since the slope was grass covered, by filling the ditches with rotting tree trunks I am hoping to accelerate beneficial fungi in the soil; b) the contour ditches are a couple feet deep and without infill it is easy  to fall in; c) if the ditches are left as ditches, they are quickly invaded by vegetation which competes with the tree roots and hides the location of the ditches (facilitating (b) above);  d) parallel with (a) the tree trunks will provide nutrients to the soil as they degrade and will absorb and retain water for the benefit of the plantings.

terrace earthwork
earthworks – a view of my new terrace showing the grading toward the slope and the cut made into the face of the slope

After grading the terrace I planted winter rye and crimson clover on the exposed earthworks and watered every couple of days with rainwater.  I have marked the location of the future tree plantings with stones – they will be at least 15 ft apart.  And, since my comfrey did so well this year, I have planted out root snippets from a couple of my comfrey plants.

contour ditch earthwork
earthworks – terrace and contour ditch – looking north you can spot the winter rye seedlings. interspersed amongst them are crimson clover seedlings
terraced earthworks
earthworks – terrace and contour ditch – I am fortunate to have degrading tree trunks for filling the ditch

I created a second terrace as an extension to the terrace and tree plantings I made last year.

 earthworks - terrace with contour ditch and tree trunks
earthworks – terrace with contour ditch and tree trunks, follows the same principle as the one above and the two together will accommodate the new arrivals

And while I was at it I went back to last year’s terrace, deepened the contour ditch and filled it with tree trunks which had been left on the property by a previous owner.

terrace with contour ditch earthworks
earthworks – last year’s terrace upgraded to include tree trunks in the contour ditch. The cosmos and aster are still in bloom and the air is heavy with bees

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