Slopes and Hillside Gardens

Many properties have fluctuations in terrain.  Though we don’t often think of slopes as ideal areas to grow a vegetable garden, they can be very productive with proper plant placement.  Water runs naturally from high to low areas via gravity, collecting at the lowest point.  Therefore, when gardening on a slope, drought tolerant plants can be placed at the highest point, reserving the bottom of the slope for plants that thrive in wetter conditions. Growing plants on a hillside or slope is not only beautiful, it also serves to reduce erosion of the soil as plants slow the flow of water and roots hold onto the soil.

The photo above is Edge of Urban Farm, located in Vista, California.  Although the entire property is steeply sloped, farmers Scott and Laura Murray grow an incredible amount of food, enough to support a thriving Community Supported Agriculture program, as well as to meet their own nutritional needs.

Terra Rose Fertile Farms raspberry patch
Terra Rose Fertile Farms raspberry patch

Here’s another example of a productive slope garden.  Terra Rosa Fertile Farms, located in Northern Arizona, is located on a steep slope. Farmers Susan and John Graves have several different types of gardens located on their property, including a large raspberry patch, pictured to the left.  The berries are watered by a nearby natural spring, as well as water that runs down the slope from the top of the property.  Coupled with excellent drainage provided by the sloping terrain, the raspberries seem to be receiving just the right amount of water to thrive.


terrace gardenSusan says that when she first arrived on the property, she and John were trying to figure out how to quickly disperse run-off water from the top of the slope.  But now they have changed their minds, and are working on creating terraces and swales to slow the water down and sink it into the soil before it runs to the bottom of the slope and off of their property.  Susan is considering creating a pond at the bottom of the terrace garden, pictured to the left, to collect and use excess water.


To learn more about sloping gardens and hillside gardening, the following are some excellent resources:

Growing a Vegetable Garden on a Hillside, Nikki Phipps, Gardening Know-How

Gardening on a Hillside, UC Master Gardener Program of Sonoma County