Take a look at that hillside, that slope, that beautiful building lot? Can you say, “Oops”?
“Oops” is what you often get in the rainy season, unless, of course, your land is beautifully flat or only at a 10-degree slope. “Oops” is what you get when you buy a lot to build on.
|later and forget that we have a lot of rain. But, with a little foresight, a little preparation, you can buy a hilly lot with a great view and keep it from washing downhill before you are ready to build. All you need is a plan and some plants.
The first thing to plant is vetiver
grass. It’s widely available, it’s easy to plant, and, if you plant at the start of the rainy season, it will put down 2 or 3 meters of roots by the following year. Plant a lot of it in contours about a meter apart. Yes, it’s a lot of planting, but vetiver is not usually expensive (in fact you can dig some of mine up for free if you are in the neighborhood). Vetiver alone will go a long way to easing the problem of slope slump but there are some other things to plant along with it.
I asked my buddy, Brennan, at Cocobolo Tree Farm what he suggests as trees for hillside lots, and he had some great recommendations depending on where you live. All of the following suggestions are deep rooting and moderate to fast growers (moderate = 0.75 to 1.5 meters a year, fast = over 1.5 meters a year and usually over 2 meters a year).
His first suggestion for those at 600 meters and below on the Pacific slope was the Guanacaste tree (Enterolobium cyclocarpum) a moderately fast growing tree that can reach 35 meters in height – over 110 feet. It makes a huge canopy and is great as a shade tree.
Next comes the raintree or cenízero (Samanea saman) which is also a moderate grower reaching 30 meters. It is also a Pacific slope tree with best growth shown at below 300 meters, but the raintree can be grown at altitudes of 1200 meters. The canopy of the raintree can reach 32 meters, a huge area of shade.
For a fast growing tree, there is nothing like the neem tree (Azadirachta indica), which Brennan calls a very fast grower. The young tree needs some wind protection but once it is secure, it is amazing. Neem begin to fruit in 3-5 years and are fully productive in 10 years. Better yet, neem is not bothered by pH or soil type and will grow in clay. The only thing it dislikes is swampy soil. Neem will grow to 30 meters tall and can be grown at altitudes up to 1,000 meters.
The ficus elastic, or rubber tree, is the tallest of the fast growers and can reach 60 meters (although that takes a while). Because of the nature of its leaves, the ficus is less likely to be attacked by leaf cutter ants, which makes it a good addition to the yard.
Really need something shorter? Tecoma stans, or yellow trumpetbush, can be grown as a shrub (just keep cutting it back) or a small tree to 10 meters. This is a great shrub for attracting hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies. It self-seeds so it can be invasive, or you can just share the new bushes with friends.
Honorable mention in the deep rooting category goes to madero negro (Gliricidia sepium), a common fence post source, that grows to 10 meters and the fruit tree jocote (Spondias mombin) which grows to 35 meters. Both are easily started from cuttings.
I hope that helps. We are going to plant a lot more vetiver in the next rainy season, and plan on neem, raintree (planted downhill so it won’t block the view), and trumpetbush. That should keep the slumping away.