This South-facing hillside has a grade ranging from 55-65%. The soil is very friable, dry and has little perennial vegetative cover. The slope was formed when the lot was graded for the house site and has been steadily slipping, its edge creeping closer to the house with each passing year. This post details how we took it from dry, inaccessible and eroding to a vegetated, accessible and beautifully stabilized part of the property.
The pathway is being installed across the slope so as not to be too steep. If it didn’t cut across the slope we would have had to use zipper stairs or some similar format to cover all of the rise without using too much run. This style, while useful, is not the best for a relaxing stroll down through the garden.
The process used to build the rock pathway is largely intuitive and based on observation of the site and the known needs of the residents. One primary need is the ability to access the gate at the bottom of the slope to easily take the dog out for walks in the adjoining open space. Simultaneously the need for an option to go to the other corner of the yard is also important. That combined with the steepness of the slope made the arched stone buttress a logical starting point. This created a split in the path, improved access to each side of the lower yard, made this lower section less steep, and also created a sun trap backed by lots of thermal mass – hello heat loving plant guild!
The pathway is built from the bottom up so that each step is keyed into the one below it, either with direct contact or sitting on a compacted dirt backfill uphill of the previous stone. This is critical for stability given the fragile soil and steep grade of the slope.
We began planting vetiver rows on contour while the pathway was still in construction. Each row of vetiver was planted into a narrow (3″ wide”) trench underlaid with a 12″ wide strip of burlap for temporary, biodegradable root protection from potential root-eating vermin and filled with composted steer manure. Each row of vetiver is fed by a 1/4″ irrigation line with emitters every 6″ to ensure successful establishment.
Completed pathway and view of all seven contour vetiver rows. Phase 1 complete!
Watch a 9 minute video journal detailing the installation process of the pathway and the vetiver grass.
Here’s a quick update video of the vetiver’s establishment – filmed 6 weeks after the last vetiver went in. The whole hill side is 4 foot tall green grass!