Terracing the Garden

Image: Newly terraced garden with supports for climbing beans in the top terrace.

Coming from Prince Rupert, I’ve always been concerned about getting my garden to drain adequately.  We used raised beds in our gardens there, largely to keep the beds from becoming bogs.  I never thought you could have too much of a good thing when it came to drainage …

I was wrong.  Here, in Port Neville, our garden beds are on a relatively steep slope, and the soil is sandy.  Water flows through, and over, the soil all too well.  We get lots of rain in the winter, and not only does the rainwater wash away the fines in the beds, we get actual erosion channels forming.  Too much drainage!

So another approach was needed.  Not raised beds per se, but barriers to slow and stop water flow, providing time for the water to percolate slowly through the soil.  What we devised was a system of terraces.  This would not only slow water flow, but level the beds and make them easier to work.

Luckily, we had salvaged a large amount of 4″ and 6″ black poly pipe during the winter.  This material served to form the edges of our beds.  In a few places, we also used logs and cedar boards.

Image: Terraced beds on the left side of the garden.  Note the 6″ black poly pipe forming the bed limits.

Image: Terraced beds on the right side of the garden.  Netting is protecting young spinach plants from our “road chickens” (ruffed grouse).  This bed has early season onions and garlic, as well as some overwintered kale which will be used for seed production.

Image: Terraced pea garden with supports for climbing pea plants.  There are rows of fruit bushes on the right of the photo (early and late season raspberries, currants, and gooseberries).

Image: Terraced potato beds (foreground), with the greenhouse and terraced beds for corn, peanuts, and sunchokes in the background.

Image: Herb garden and perennial plants.  This garden is the only one that we will not terrace, although we are working on a decorative drift-wood theme for edging.

So far, the terraces have worked great!  When water is added, the water stays in the beds, and soaks down, rather than flowing across the ground.  This is a great improvement, especially for later in the summer when water is a precious resource and wastage is to be avoided.

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3 thoughts on “Terracing the Garden”

  1. Your garden is really expanding and producing. I had a potato patch up on the cliff that I created from making compost every year to increase its size. It started on brush covered bit of sloping granite. Even though the soil is soft and filled with good humus, the water always ran off unless I sprinkled it slowly. That problem has been solved since we’ve been given notice to remove everything from the uplands next to our float cabin. I planted four barrels of potatoes to make us for my loss. At least they will be easier to water on the cabin deck rather than going up the stairs to the cliff. – Margy

    1. Hi Margy:
      We’re still working towards being largely self-sufficient. It’s a goal, but we probably have a long ways to go yet. I think the main vegetable gardens are large enough to support the two of us, if I can get them up to full production … we’ll see!

      Ken spent part of his childhood living in a float house. He has lots of stories. His mother used to grow potatoes in old salvaged washing machine tubs on their float. Before we made the decision to move to Port Neville, I was seriously considering living in a float house, but there are a number of disadvantages – finding a place where you can anchor your home, access to the uplands, security issues (float homes in Northern BC have a high incidence of theft and vandalism). Ken felt that owning land would be a better option, and when we were able to sell our house in Prince Rupert for enough money to be able to purchase our 50 acres here, that was the route we finally chose. However, I spent a lot of time reading your blogs as we went through our process of down-sizing and deciding where and how we were going to live.
      Cheers.
      Barb

  2. I am encouraging Margy to disregard the ‘authorities’ and continue to live like normal people but, of course, normal people obey the authorities so….we’ll see. As for you guys, you are going strong and well it seems. The pictures look great. The setting is beautiful and you guys improve it every time I look. Good on ya! Sal and I (and Margy and your other followers) KNOW how much effort is involved in all that. EVERYTHING is a lot of work. At least we sleep well, eh?

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