Terracing Basics

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Terracing Basics
Written by Elizabeth Wood
Editor In Chief, United Home Improvement

Terracing is a great way to make flowering and vegetable gardening possible on steep slopes. Terracing offers an array of benefits including the conservation of soil and water, added dimension to your landscaping, ability to create several mini-gardens, and it prevents erosion on slopes by creating ridges and channels constructed across-the-slope. For these reasons, terracing permits more intensive gardening and cropping than would otherwise be possible.

Almost any materials can be used to create terracing; treated wood, natural stone, flags-on-edge, railway sleepers, fence base panels, gabions (wire baskets filled with local stone), bricks, rocks, concrete blocks, and related masonry materials. Basically, anything that is capable of providing some upstanding while still being firmly anchored to the ground beneath is suitable for the riser. Keep in mind, many communities have building codes for walls and terraces.

Terraces can either be a do-it-yourself project or you can hire an experienced land contractor to do the job. Regardless of who installs it, a terrace system must be carefully designed. Terraces must be spaced correctly, have sufficient ridge height and channel cuts to provide the necessary water storage, and have properly-sized outlets. The project is best completed all at one time but it doesn't have to be. If you start at the top of the slope and work downhill, construction of a terrace system can be spread over more than one season.

A certain level of maintenance is required with a terrace system. The main thing is yearly protective maintenance, such as removing debris from outlets and smoothing out silt bars in the channels. Occasionally, the ridges will need to be rebuilt.

Alternatives for Slopes:

• Strip-cropping
• Using Ground Covers

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