Sunday, June 10, 2012

Digging Swales

What is a swale?

A swale is a low tract of land, especially one that is moist or marshy. The term refers to a natural landscape feature or a human-created one. Artificial swales are often designed to manage water runoff, filter pollutants, and increase rainwater infiltration.
It has been popularized as a rainwater harvesting and soil conservation strategy by Bill Mollison, Geoff Lawton and other advocates of permaculture.

My house doesnt really empty, there is a slight natural swale in the middle of my yard so the street floods into my yard, and the rain rushing from my roof flows down the other side meeting the streets water in the middle, this means ANYTIME we get a hard rain my yard floods out, I dislike this so I set out to dig 2 swales, one along the sidewalk to catch the streets flood waters, and the other along the house to catch the roof run off.

First came the sidewalk swale, dug right along the sidewalk with a raised garden on the otherside, we have had 3 days of rains and NO floods, the water rushes off the street into the swale which soaks it into the soil and leaves, any extra goes into the garden on the downhill side.

Today I decided to dig the swale along the house, with a lot of sweat and dirty hands I dug, and dug, and dug... I created a swale right along the house (with a board to keep the water from rushing against the house) and this time I dug a banana pit along it...

The swale goes along the house to catch the runoff then right in the middle I raised the soil a little so it was about 3-4 inches up and dug a level circle terrace, here I planted 7 banana plants to use that water (the spot they were in was to dry for them not allowing them to grow well), I filled the swale and banana pit with leaves we had collected from the roadsides, along the pit and rest of the swale we kept it at ground level (maybe even a little raised) and here we will create a standard garden with flowers and other edibles so when the water from the swale and pit soaks into the ground it will keep the standard garden well watered as well, seem like a win-win!!! :)

Basic Idea:

Water fills the swale, which then spills into banana pit, which then soaks into soil watering outer garden and bananas
Also allowing my yard to not flood out! :)

Here is the process of the front sidewalk swale being dug out and finished before filling with leaves (so no one kills themselves by tripping):

Here is the finished house swale, with banana pit and filled with leaves:

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