Atascadero Permaculture Homestead

Level 1 Site Assessment + Level 3 Earthworks Design & Implementation

Level 1 – Site Assessment

Location: Atascadero, CA

Project Scope: 7th Generation Design was invited to perform a Level 1 Site Assessment and design a passive water harvesting earthworks and erosion control system to improve access, increase usable planting area, improve hydration and create the soil-building foundation for a future food forest on a budding 10 acre permaculture homestead. The clients envision creating an abundant homestead with ample food production (annual and perennial) to share with family, friends and community.

The Land: The 10 acres are all set on a generally south-facing secondary ridge, with dominant solar aspects ranging from southeast to southwest. Much of the property has steep grades, ranging as high as 36% in some places.

Existing Conditions: During a typical Atascadero rain year of 17.5 inches, this property receives ~4.75 million gallons of direct precipitation within property bounds, of which ~ .71 – 2.14 million gallons is lost as run-off (15-45%). An additional .4 – 1.2 million gallons flows onto the property from off-property catchment areas. The property has a history of overgrazing, with infertile soils (almost pure sand on the ridges, some fine sandy loam in the valleys) and low soil-biology, as evidenced by the years-old livestock dung still persisting on the ground. The formerly grazed areas are largely dominated by annual broadleaf weeds and grasses. 

Existing Conditions + Contours base map.
View to the southwest from the upper pastures.

Level 3 – Water Harvesting Earthworks Design & Implementation

7th Generation Design implemented a passive water harvesting earthworks and erosion control system to create the physical skeleton for the planned food forest on the south facing ridge crest below the main residence. The earthworks served to improve access by foot and vehicle to the food forest zone via the creation of an access ramp leading to an upper terrace. An upper swale was installed to harvest run-off water that had been exiting the property down the paved driveway, instead patterning it on contour to allow it time to infiltrate. Three additional terraces were installed below this swale to act as the primary growing area. A series of media luna flow concentrators/spreaders were installed to pacify discharge over the level sill spillway in the event of a heavy precipitation event. Just below the valley keypoint (where the slope transitions from convex to concave) in the valley below, a second swale was installed to capture any discharge and allow it to infiltrate uphill of the deep valley soils which will be prime growing area in the future. This system will harvest and infiltrate between .5 – 1.25 million gallons of water per average rain year that would otherwise be lost to run-off, and improve moisture persistence in the soil to nourish the food forest and wildlife habitat plantings to come.

Design Map

Passive water harvesting and erosion control structures, with re-patterned access. This systems will accept run-off from all of the structures above it and the surrounding driveway hardscape.

Before & Afters

Before and after the implementation of the passive water harvesting, erosion control and access elements for the future food forest.
Food forest zone before and after terracing. Mulching is in progress in the second photo following application of cover crop seed.
Annotated and illustrated to show the various planting terraces and water pathways.

Implementation Gallery

Implementation Video

On-the-ground walk through of the project area during and after the project.