Web Site Name

Barbara Pleasant:

My Hillside Vegetable Gardening

 

Last year my big birthday present was a Deep-Seat Garden Kneeler from Gardener's Supply, which has turned out to be a dream come true when nothing will do but a good hand weeding. I researched weeding stools and benches before hinting at what I wanted, and various garden kneelers are the way to go if you garden on a slope. On the low side of my beds, I can kneel comfortably to weed and thin, but when I’m working from the high side I sit on the thing, close to the ground. The handles are great for helping you get up and down, and the kneeler is light enough to carry up the hill with one hand. 

Thanks so much for supporting my work!

Gardening on a slope will keep your leg muscles strong, and it's a beautiful way to grow great food. Our hillside vegetable garden is on a northwest-facing mountainside at about 2,700 feet elevation. The elevation and exposure puts us in Zone 6b. The basic soil type is acid mountain clay, but after years of improvement it's now clay loam.

 

Here I'm posting photos and observation that may be of interest to others who are nurturing dreams of a beautiful hillside vegetable garden. Ours is made up of about 20 permanent beds that are terraced into the hillside.

 

To retain the beds, we use untreated boards from the sawmill down the road. The boards eventually rot and need replacing, but that's an easy job to take care of in spring. One-inch thick poplar boards worked well enough, but we have replaced most of them with thicker hemlock, which was the sawmill special a couple of years ago. 

hillside vegetable garden in winter
Winter
spring in the hillside vegetable garden
Spring
To reduce soil erosion and increase light exposure to plants when gardening on a slope, it is best to run permanent beds and planting trenches across the slope in a hillside vegetable garden.
Hillside vegetable garden summer
Summer
I love the visual drama of our hillside vegetable garden. The tiered beds show off the changing tableau of crops like actors on a stage. And though I'm sure climbing up a stiff hill twenty times a day is good for you, it's the only aspect of gardening on a slope that gets tiresome.

Instead of trying to garden in the steepest, shadiest corner of the garden, we built a beautiful chicken coop with attached decks -- one for garden stuff and one for people. Eggs can be gathered from the little deck. 

When gardening on a slope, keep kitchen herbs on the front row, within easy reach. Here prostrate rosemary tumbles over a section of retaining wall made of logs.
After much trial and error, we have settled on 18 to 24-inch long rebar stakes as the best way to support retaining boards. Wood stakes rot too fast for this job in a hillside vegetable garden.
To reduce soil erosion and increase light exposure to plants when gardening on a slope, it is best to run permanent beds and planting trenches across the slope in a hillside vegetable garden.
One of the great things about a hillside garden is the emergence of natural layers of texture. Useful herbs including catnip, valerian and lemon balm reseed naturally, asking only for a small space to grow.  
We maintain wide corridors of mixed grass and clover between sets of permanent beds in our hillside vegetable garden. In addition to safe footing, the grass provides clippings to use as mulch.
Here is an early version of our hillside vegetable garden. When gardening on a slope, start building beds at the bottom, and work your way up. 
Terraced beds are accessible in wet spring weather, because the pathways bear the weight of human activities such as planting or providing protection from bad weather.