The Weekend Post - Cairns Eye - - Front Page -

Re­tain­ing the earth be­hind a wall is not un­com­mon ma­nip­u­la­tion of a slope. Af­ter all, when you look at the ter­races of the moun­tain­ous coun­try in In­dia, the Philip­pines and through­out Asia, they have been hand en­gi­neer­ing nat­u­ral land­scapes for cen­turies.

This sculpt­ing of the earth is more out of ne­ces­sity, sus­te­nance, trade and econ­omy than for the aes­thet­ics. But in that grad­u­a­tion of rice pad­dies, tea plan­ta­tions and other crops grow­ing on the side of a hill, there is an un­in­ten­tional beauty in the land­scape.

So to, as we start to fill up the flat and easy land and move up the hills do we dis­cover how a moun­tain­side tea plan­ta­tion might work.

Re­tain­ing and ter­rac­ing are sig­nif­i­cant works for some homes. Apart from the ad­di­tional en­gi­neer­ing (and cost) of build­ing foot­ings, a mere slope at the side be­tween you and a neigh­bour can seem to be an in­sur­mount­able moun­tain of your own.

How to cover bare earth that would nor­mally be me­ters be­low the nor­mal soil level? When most is shaly or sim­ply dead clay in its ge­ol­ogy and is un­likely to grow any­thing at all.

Ter­rac­ing is one an­swer if you have a rea­son­able bud­get, also if you can get to the slope be­fore build­ing. Of­ten these land­scape fea­tures are left to last when the money has run out and a ‘that’ll do’ ap­proach is just what you fin­ish up with next to a fab­u­lous new house.

Grasses like rolls of Zoysia ma­trella of­fer some so­lu­tion to a bald face of earth. This grass needs very lit­tle main­te­nance and on a slope, will pro­vide in­stant green, man­age weeds (mostly) and re­quire a hair­cut ev­ery few months. Grass­ing in the semi-ver­ti­cal with a few lines of ir­ri­ga­tion could be a good so­lu­tion.

Other meth­ods of ban­dag­ing the face of the bat­ter with coco fi­bre and pin­ning it down and mak­ing pock­ets of soil for dif­fer­ent plants may work, but has lim­ited suc­cess un­less you keep at it.

There is no soil pro­file un­der the coco fi­bre and only con­stant wa­ter­ing and ap­pli­ca­tions of or­ganic mat­ter (like hand­fuls a good gar­den mix around each plant will help over time). The choice of plants is also crit­i­cal. Hardy old num­bers like bromeli­ads, suc­cu­lents and many of the dra­cae­nas work with some rea­son­able ef­fort. Avoid needy plants for this job.

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