My backyard is mostly a large hill. Over the past few days I have been
remulching it and this has proven to be just an arduous and dangerous task
due to lousy footing on the hill. With the mulch layer that's already there
it's just very difficult if not impossible to climb up the hill and maintain
footing to do whatever you need to do. And yes, I did start at the top and
drop mulch down and just let gravity work but that only works for about the
top 1/3 of the hill. The plants are also young enough that it takes a fair
bit of care not to swamp them just pouring mulch down.
I tried laying a ladder down and while there was a glimmering that the idea
had some merit ultimately it was too much of a pain to try and balance on
and the ladder kept shifting.
I can't be the first person to run into this problem. I've seen companies
that will blow mulch into place but I doubt they could get their equipment
into my back yard and that whole idea is just too !green for my taste. What
do people generally do in this situation? Is there a ladder made for this
thanks in advance
Depends on the amount of slope. I have got grass to grow on a steep
slope, but if it is too steep to run a lawn mower over it there are
other choices. Have you considered tiers, similar to how they do it
in China? Sometimes a steep slope will cause erosion, which it did on
my property until the grass became established.
It sounds like a little "terracing" might be in order. It's easily done
and doesn't need to be a big to-do but can be just partial terracing here
and there resulting in new planting areas and places to stand.
I created a whole new gardening area starting with a haphazard wall of
stackable stones halfway down a small hill, filled in behind, and started
planting the new flat area. Large stepping stones at intervals keep
groundcovers from filling in where I need to stand and reach other areas.
If it had been a bigger hillside I'd've done a series of tiers but for my
area it was enough to have a top bottom and middle of flat strips; the
remaining sloped area became reachable from the flat parts. But the main
thing is it was just easy, no major excavating, no great expense since i
scrounged a big percentage of the flat rocks, in exchange for an increase
of planting area and no more having topsoil washing away to slope's bottom
or plants at mid-slope not getting enough water. Even just an occasional
mini-terrace six or eight feet wide, three or four feet deep, at
intervals, would give you perching spots, and once the stone walls got
mossy it looks like bits of a ruin of an old city sticking out of tel.
-paghat the ratgirl
visit my temperate gardening website:
To start, read about My Hill at
<http://www.rossde.com/garden/garden_back.html#hill . As noted there,
My Hill is steep enough that I have actually fallen off.
Terracing might be a bad idea, depending on your soils and geology. A
terrace might trap enough rain to cause a slope failure. I just added
up the cost of repairing my latest slope failure (happened in 2005,
repairs finished early this year): slightly over $150,000. And I'll
still be paying on the loan for the first repair (16 years ago) until
next February. And NO, there is no such thing as insurance for such
The repair included a concrete brow-line V-ditch across the slope,
feeding into a down-slope V-ditch that empties into a drain line in a
catch box. There are four buried drain lines at different levels of the
slope, emptying into two other drain lines. At 12 inch intervals up the
slope, Geogrid (an extremely heavy plastic mesh) was laid 7 feet into
the slope. This is a slope about 30 feet high and 80 feet wide on a
standard residential tract lot (less than 1/4 acre total, including the
pad for my house).
After the repair, I had a landscape contractor plant a ground cover,
using started plants and not seeded hydromulch. These were planted
through jute netting, which was anchored to the slope.
I was warned against planting trees. In a wind, a tree will rock back
and forth, breaking up the surface soil and creating an easy path for
rain to penetrate to the subsoil, lubricating the interface with the
surface soil and allowing the surface to slide away. Despite the
Geogrid, this advice remained in effect.
Climbing My Hill is a major effort. When I do it, I try to accomplish
several tasks to minimize repeat visits. I always pull some weeds,
laying them down across the slope to provide a mulch. However, the jute
netting should actually suffice until the ground cover is well
I water My Hill deeply but only once in two weeks. (I watered several
times each day right after the ground cover was planted.) By allowing
the surface to become quite dry, I discourage weed seeds from sprouting
and becoming established.
The new landscaping repeats what I had before. It looks very good when
established. One difference between now and previously involves using
Rhaphiolepis 'Majestic Beauty' and Westringia fruticosa (false or coast
rosemary) in place of Nerium oleander; oleanders are dying across
southern California from an epidemic blight. Another difference is that
a third grape vine -- 'Flame' -- is now in the center-top of the slope;
the slope never failed where grapes were planted. Once the plants are
established and the ground cover is thick enough to discourage weeds,
the only maintenance will be tending the grape vines.
David E. Ross
Climate: California Mediterranean
I'm waiting until the ground cover becomes established and has spread.
Right now, the V-ditches and drain lines are quite ugly.
The ground cover will eventually grow over the drain lines and hide
them. I'm going to let the ground cover grow into the down-hill
V-ditch, not only to hide it but also to trap leaves and other debris
that would otherwise land in the catch box at the bottom and block the
grill that leads to a drain line. As for the browline (cross-hill)
V-ditch, I'll let enough ground cover grow into it to hide the uphill
side, which looks like a wall; but I'll have to keep the ground cover
off the bottom of that V-ditch so that it will indeed drain.
David E. Ross
Climate: California Mediterranean
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