ask-ruth-pictureFollow-up to the Prichard’s question last month about gardening on a 25% slope:

After reading last month’s newsletter, Barry Rubenstein responded by saying that the slopes I mentioned on their farm are not very steep; they’re only about six degrees. Barry recommended terracing your garden areas. I agree with Barry that terracing will offer you the best-case scenario. As I mentioned last month, the problem with steep slopes is that water runs down the hill quickly ~ taking your nutrients, eroding your topsoil, and leaving your garden dry. To clarify ~ even though it is possible to grow on a steep slope, it is not ideal. Your garden areas will retain more water, be more productive, and be easier to maintain and harvest if you create terraces or moderate the slope substantially.

If you still plan to create keyhole gardens on this steep slope, remember that constructing swales above the planting areas will help retain water in the soil. Plant your rows going across the hill, rather than down. Utilize cover cropping. Eliminate weed seeds before they mature. Use drip irrigation or a soaker hose, and water in short intervals – allowing the moisture to soak into the soil (rather than run down the hill) before adding more water.

Ask Ruth © 2013 Ruth Gonzalez & Organic Growers School

Gardeners: Got a question for Ruth? Email it to us at

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Ruth Gonzalez

Ruth Gonzalez

Ruth Gonzalez is a former market farmer, gardener, and local food advocate who wants to see organic farms proliferate and organic gardens in every yard. She serves on the Organic Growers School Board of Directors, and in her job at Reems Creek Nursery, Ruth offers advice on all sorts of gardening questions, and benefits daily from the wisdom of local gardeners.