Contour Gardening

Flat farming is believed to be the ideal landscape for farming since ages. With the rise in population; people begun to cultivate even in areas of high slope by following the similar sort of techniques being used in traditional flat farming system.

The major problem is not with the cultivation on slope but is with the techniques used in cultivation on slope which has increased the problem of soil erosion and led to the loss of soil fertility. Thus, contour farming has been proposed as an alternatives to this serious issues after many years of practices. 

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Source: Institute Agriculture


What is contour gardening?

Contour farming/ contour gardening/ contour ploughing is an ancient and sustainable practice of farming. It is a creative technique of shaping the land to conserve or capture maximum amount of water, reduce erosion and rain water runoff, and improves soil ecology & fertility.

In this technique, farmers plant crops across or perpendicular to the slope following the natural elevation contour lines, rather than up and down the hill. This precious scientific technique could be applied for both annual and perennial crops without any doubt for harvesting maximum yields.


Why contour gardening?

Not all land is flattened, and it is very hard to cultivate crops at slope land. In such cases, contour farming has been proved to be effective. Hence, contour farming is gaining popularity for easy farming in such landmass and overcoming the following problems in slope land:

  • Incapability of soil to soak sufficient amount of water/ rainwater resulting in runoff through the slope.
  • Frequent loss of top-soil in slope land leading to the lack of nutrient availability for cultivated crops.

To overcome these problems the practice of contour farming is done by making counter rows across the slope. This technique is known as contour gardening.


Benefits of contour farming

1. Planting along natural curve of land reduces gullies and soil erosion.
2. Increase in water and nutrient infiltration capacity of soil and thus avoids runoff.
3. Prevents loss of topsoil.
4. Directs and capture rainwater.
5. Creates microclimates of sunlight and shade.
6. Reduce irrigation time.
7. Minimizes fertilization needs.
8. Increases yields by 10 to 15%.
9. Not only slope land but also flat land is highly benefitted with this technique.
10. The quality of soil remains conserved at the sloping land.
11. Contour gardening doesn’t let slope land to remain barren.
12. Cultivation in slope land with this technique will help to provide necessary crops. This will increase the gross production of the place.
13. One shouldn’t need to worry about water in contour farming because this technique works in harvesting the provided water/ rainwater for a long time too.


How does contour gardening works?

Contour ridges are formed across the slope in contour gardening. This ridge creates space in between two contour beds, which helps to harvest water. Crops at every ridge can get a sufficient amount of water. As well as soil in the contour beds can absorb the harvested water for a long time.

When contour beds are not made, water flows through the slope taking away the topsoil. And when heavy rain falls, it runs off the humus-rich topsoil. As a result crops won’t do well and provide with proper yield.


How to prepare Contour beds?

You can easily prepare contour beds at your garden using gardening tools following the below-listed steps:


1. Create an “A-Frame”

Contour beds can be measured by using a laser level, or an ‘A-frame’. If you don’t have access to laser level you can simply construct an’ A-frame’ with stick and wire.

Using 3 pieces of stick or metal an A-frame can be made easily. One thing to be careful that the frame you made must be strong enough to hold.

You can prepare the width of an A-frame in accordance with your wish. If you want wider beds then you should make the wider frame. If you want small beds then you can prepare small A-frame.

After an A-frame is prepared you can use it to trace the contour lines. To use it

  • first, hold one leg of the frame on the ground from where you want to start.
  • Rotate the frame at 180 degrees around keeping the first leg constant and place the second leg.
  • Trace an elevation line at the edge.


2. Create Contour beds

To construct raised beds:

  • Dig along the contour and create a path in between two beds.
  • Make 40-60 cm wide space in between two beds. This will make it easier while harvesting and cropping as it prevents affecting another bed.
  • Mould the soil on the lower side making a bed.
  • Make input of compost manure and mix it in soil. It helps to increase soil fertility and crop yields.


3. Mulch the beds

After constructing the raised beds, water the raised beds until it becomes wet. Then all you need to do is mulch( cover) the beds.

You can mulch the raised beds with compost woody material, coriander or pea straw or sugarcane mulch.


4. Wait for contour beds to set

When the beds are ready, wait 4-5 days for these beds to set. You could plant your crops once the beds are set. Waiting for someday helps to decays the mulch which also provides enough nutrient to the soil apart from runoff and soil erosion protection. 



Contour gardening is a very important and useful technique. With an increase in population, the landmass is occupied by human settlement. The problem of soil erosion in sloppy land is decreasing the quality of the soil. Many slopes land is left barren due to the problem of soil erosion.

We know that land space will remain constant. So utilizing the ancient technique of contour farming originated by the Phoenicians we can overcome the enlisted problems.

So, let’s join today in this campaign of preserving soil, and increasing cultivation through the practice of contour farming.




Prativa Bhatta

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