Thursday, November 29, 2018

Terracing a steep slope

Regrettably, this isn't a post on my own back slope, which following the hard hit it took in early July when our temperature reached 110F, is looking uglier than ever.  I took the following photos in my former neighborhood, on a street I pass through each week when I meet friends for lunch.   The retaining walls went in a year or more ago but the area wasn't planted up until this year.  I'd been meaning to stop and snap photos for some time but finally took 15 minutes to do that earlier this week.

This is on a relatively busy residential street, one of main corridors for traffic passing through this neighborhood

The terraced wall has 3 levels, backed by a tall fence behind what I assume is the owner's backyard

I was initially confused as to why the builder omitted grout between the bricks at the base of each tier of the retaining wall before realizing that's probably a strategy to facilitate drainage


I couldn't get close-ups of the trees and plants on the upper tiers of the terraced wall and I was unable to identify most of them, although I believe all are fruit trees.  The 3 trees with wood frames each had wire supports behind them, presumably to espalier the branches as they grow.

I'm assuming this is a fig tree and I'm guessing the other 2 framed trees are also figs of some kind.  The trunks of all 3 were painted white to prevent the cracking and splitting that can allow insects and disease to infect fruit trees.

In addition to this tomato plant, the second tier appeared to have peach and/or apricot trees, as well as another tree I couldn't even make a guess at identifying


The only area I could examine closely was the lowest one.  It featured a wide variety of citrus trees, all neatly labeled.  Herbs, including thyme, rosemary and lavender, were planted between the trees.  A discrete drip system was in place too.

Top row: Meyer and Eureka lemons and a Bearrs lime
Middle row: Key, Finger and Kaffir limes
Bottom row: Cara Cara orange and Yuzu, a hybrid Japanese citrus tree


It's my dream to have something like this in place on my back slope but, as access to that area is very limited, I can't imagine being able to bring in the equipment or materials necessary to create a wall like this, at least one that I could afford.  Still, it's nice to dream!

In other news, rain has returned to Southern California.  It came down in buckets for awhile this morning.  I can only hope that the burn areas received gentler treatment.

I filled these plastic buckets using what poured down the rain chain in about 30 minutes, after first dumping the contents of 2 of them on the plants under the roof's overhang.  I'm planning to move the contents of these to my 265-gallon tank, which is slower to fill than my other 2 tanks, both of which are already full.


More rain is expected this afternoon and, according to one forecast, still more is possible next week.  I'd be ecstatic except that I can't help worrying about how this will affect the burn areas.  Slow and gentle rain is what we need.


All material © 2012-2018 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

30 comments:

  1. That is quite a hillside that is terraced. It looks like something a municipal party would construct. They must like lemons. I have never heard of many of those names. The water looks good sitting there in the tubs. I hope you get the rain that you need, that the whole state needs.

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    1. I think that slope is even steeper than my own, Lisa, but only just quite. The lime selection was a surprise. I think the owner is either a collector or connected with an exotic fruits nursery and asked for one of every citrus variety. I have what I believe is a Bearrs lime myself (inherited with the garden) - it gets big. While they provided decent spacing between each variety, it would appear to me that some of these plants will be crowded out in time.

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  2. Wow, that's a lot of rain all at once. Good thing you have a fair amount of storage to put it to good use later.
    Terracing and fill would be a dream come true for your back slope. When you win the lottery, perhaps?

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    1. More rain arrived this evening - we're up to 3/4ths of an inch now. It's continued to arrive in bursts. As to my back slope, I'm hoping that I might be able to make changes, perhaps adding cement blocks like those my husband used to create our stairway down to the lemon tree, or maybe just large rocks set here and there to level out small portions of the area. Alternatively, I've thought about leaving the slope intact and planting grasses or something similar that might hold the soil, assuming that I can eradicate the half-dead ivy and honeysuckle that's there now.

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  3. I wonder if the bottom terrace is intended for passersby to harvest?

    So wonderful to see rain for you, and hope the burnt areas got the very gentle soaking rain they need.

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    1. If all those trees live to maturity and bear fruit, my guess is that the owner may want people to carry some away, Diana. My own citrus trees (4 in total) bear so much fruit that my husband and I can never consume all of it. I routinely give fruit away to friends and, when I still have gobs of it on hand, I leave it in buckets at out driveway entrance with bags and a note encouraging neighbors to take what they want. Most of it usually disappears!

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  4. Definitely a dreamscape for a steep slope! I've always loved the effect of terracing. It's good to hear you got the rain; so hope it doesn't do damage in the burn areas... Clouds have been moving in here, and we're expecting rain soon too :)

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    1. I'm glad to hear that you're going to get some of this rain too, Amy. Maybe we're in for that mild El Nino after all.

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  5. That is quite a project they did and so much more productive use of space than a steep slope. Good to see you have rain and are making good use of the totes. Grasses work well on slopes but they do need some maintenance.

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    1. Yes, the problems with attempting renovation of the back slope has as much to do with how to maintain it afterwards as with how to get it planted in the first place. My neighbors (or rather a crew working for them) planted their slope with hundreds of plugs of prostrate rosemary - and even those needed some pruning and clean-up after a couple of years.

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  6. Hmmm, I have to say that I don’t care for the look of the terraces. It’s very brutal, with no softening plants or comparably architectural shapes. I am happy you’ve got some rain though!

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    1. The herbs planted between the trees should provide a softening effect in time but I understand the concern with the mass of concrete bricks. The trees themselves should hide much of the structure's face when they grow up too so, at least theoretically, the viewer should eventually see more green than brick. Given the steepness of the slope, I suspect the retaining wall structures had to be relatively mammoth. What the tiers lack in width, the builders appeared to be trying to make up in depth.

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  7. I had no idea trunks are painted white to prevent splitting! Learn something new every day. I have to say I agree with Loree on the terraces themselves. They look very heavy handed to me, but I hope that once all the plants take off, they might restore some balance to it all. I'm in awe of the thought of being able to grow citrus... what a luxury!

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    1. I'd understood that the white paint had something to do with protecting tree trunks from disease but, until I conducted an on-line search, I didn't know that it worked by preventing cracking and splitting of the wood. I too think the structure will be less imposing once the trees grow up and the herbs spread out. Actually, what bothers me most is that stark white fence looming above.

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  8. When those espaliers grow in, that area should be striking. Alas, it seems like the gentle rains of yesteryear are only a memory. Hope I am wrong and the right kind of rain hits the burned areas.

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    1. Unfortunately, there were evacuation orders here yesterday and it sounds as though the situation was worse up north. Some of the areas most affected in the south appear to have been those burned in prior years, which goes to show that recovery is a long-term process.

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  9. Liked it.
    It's getting pretty good.
    What is the bucket of water for?
    Good entry of month.

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    1. We have had a long drought, Janicce. We store water in tanks for use during our dry months, which is most of the year!

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  10. Back in the old days when I worked at the garden center in San Diego we sold quart cans of a product called 'Tree Trunk White' and it was used primarily for juvenile citrus to prevent sun scald. It was kind of a common thing if you drove around areas like Redlands, Banning, Palm Springs etc.

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    1. I'd wondered if there was a "special" paint for trees, Kathy. Interestingly, here it was the fig trees that were painted, not the citrus, but then the sun exposure is probably greater on the upper tier.

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  11. The terracing makes good use of the slope but in an area that gets such high temperatures, I'd worry about the brick accumulating heat and frying the plants. Glad you're getting rain. Let's hope that lots of slow soft rain is in your future!

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    1. Citrus is pretty heat tolerant. I'm not sure about figs.

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  12. More functional than aesthetic, but at least it is functional, and Citrus and Figs are climate appropriate.

    We got over an inch here. :)

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    1. We didn't get quite that much here. We topped out at 0.8/inch but that's still pretty good. All my rain tanks are now full and we have the prospect of more rain next Wednesday. It's amazing how a little rain suddenly fills me with all kinds of ideas of what is possible in the garden. I even spent some time down on my own back slope this afternoon, eyeing the possibilities.

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    2. Yes indeed, seeing languishing plants spring to vigorous life because of a little rain, possibilities seem--possible again.

      I keep thinking (having heard the news of yet more rain possible this week) "Will this heaven continue a while longer, or will it turn endlessly hot and dry?" Relishing while it lasts.

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    3. NOAA's latest forecast gives us an 80% chance of El Nino weather conditions this winter and a 55-60% chance of those conditions spilling into spring. I hope they're right!

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  13. I'm so pleased you're getting some rain. Those terraces are strong and sturdy and practical. Maybe when things grow it will look a bit softer. It did come down in buckets - lol - 7 buckets!

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    1. My rain tanks are full too, Sue. I haven't had any stored rainwater on hand since last spring and now I have 475 gallons. I feel rich!

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    2. I just thought of you, California and the fire trauma. We've just been warned to expect the worst fire season in Victoria in 10 years, and the relevant services are on the alert already.

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    3. Oh no, I'm sorry to hear that. My area is considered at high risk but, unlike some at-risk areas, there hasn't been a serious fire here in decades, although that doesn't mean we're complacent. My in-laws lost their dream home, one they built from the ground up in Malibu, in 1993. I've never forgotten how devastating that was for them and the whole family. My husband and I have "bug-out" bags ready, along with a list of what we take depending how much warning we have to get out.

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