All over the world, rocky hillsides are considered worthless for agriculture, and for conventional agriculture, that may be true. However, permaculture considers this type of land a resource. Using terracing with dry stone walls, your useless hillside becomes a beautiful garden.
Permaculture Principles: Using What You Have
The entire premise of permaculture is to work with what nature gives you. When faced with a steep slope on rocky land, the permaculturist sees terraces created with retaining walls built of the same rocks everyone else sees as a liability. Using what is in abundance, the permaculturist uses the rock that must be removed anyway to create a viable growing area.
The Advantages of Dry-Stone Retaining Walls
Building dry-stone walls is an art, and knowing how to build them is valuable knowledge to have. The stones must be of sufficient size to hold back the wall, so smaller rocks mean lower terraces. The rock must be stacked at an angle leaning into the soil so as not to be displaced by expanding soil during rains. The advantage of dry-fit walls is that they can easily contract and expand as needed according to water content and temperature demand, allowing plant roots to grow freely without damaging the wall. For large terrace projects, you will need an engineer to determine the exact height and design of the terraces.
Backfilling the Wall
After your dry-fit stone wall is built, the terrace has to be backfilled. The wonderful thing about permaculture is that you don't have to backfill with soil. You can use Hugelkultur, which is basically filling a space with logs and branches and allowing them to decompose and start building the soil. While Hugelkultur usually uses already decaying wood, freshly cut wood can be used, so if you have to clear trees, this is a useful way to use the timber.
Hiring a Stacked-Stone Wall Builder
Since dry-stone wall stacking requires specialized knowledge, especially on taller walls, it's best to hire an experienced artisan to ensure your walls will have the stability and permanence you need. If your land is in an area with a lot of rocky land, a local landscaping company can likely help you find a local crew to do the job right.
Terracing your sloping permaculture project with rocks already available on the property is a perfect way to make use of what many see as unusable land. Finding an experienced dry-stone wall builder is essential to ensure that your walls will stand the test of time. Contact companies such as Quality Lawn & Landscape and ask them about their services to find a builder that is good for you.