Building a Permaculture Swale

Tonight I built a swale in a back garden bed. I tore some evergreens out of this bed last year and since then I’ve been fighting the evil forces of Creeping Charlie. I decided I wanted to build a swale here because I have two gutters here that are funneling water away from the house. Our budget is very tight right now and I can’t swing some rain barrels (at least not enough for all 12 of our downspouts) so I figured a swale would be a good way to store the water in the ground. Especially because I have some big plans for this area.

A picture mostly from the front, and one below from the side. These are before pictures.

Pictures of the same two areas after the swale is dug. I used a hoe to dig out the swale. It took me maybe 10 minutes. (Sometimes people call swales “irrigation ditches” or other names like that) I borrowed this hoe from someone but it’s just like the one I ordered. The design works great. I can’t wait to use it more.

All this wood you see, by the way, is for the earth oven I’m hoping to build sometime this summer. After I dug the trench out I laid a few sticks and twigs into it as I’ve heard that wood can help soak up water while it decomposes. I also laid some bricks and rocks under the down spouts so that the water that comes out of them won’t eat away at the soil. As you can tell the soil slopes away to the left, which is north, away from the house. I currently have two blackberry bushes planted there. Also a lovage plant and two little shrubs that have grown since I cut down the evergreen bushes.

I am planning to place some ground covers on the back (north/left) part of the swale and there will be two cherry trees planted down towards the bottom of the slope. These are semi-dwarf plants. Part of the appeal of the swale is to keep excess moisture in this soil for these trees to grab as needed. Additionally, I’m going to plant some herbs (probably chives) as well as some Eqyptian Walking Onions, if they ever come off backorder. I should have a nice little permaculture guild going there, just without the vining plants, for now.

After all the dirt work was done I laid down copious amounts of wet WSJs and covered that with leaves. Hopefully the WSJs will kill the remaining Creeping Charlie.

Now I just have to wait for the plants to come and I can get them in the ground too. It should be just a day or two until it rains so I can see if the swale works. If you’re a permaculture person let me know if there’s anything that I can do here to make this work a little better.

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2 responses to “Building a Permaculture Swale

  1. Any follow-up news on your swale? how has it been working out? I’m interested in building something in my yard and I’m curious about small scale examples.

  2. jackie chelangat

    I’ll be starting to make swale in my farm soon and am really glad to get lots of ideas from anybody including you! Thank you and God bless! have a great swalling time and if you have more ideas please let me know!

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