What’s a Swale?

29 Apr

Many of our guests have been interested in how we practice permaculture on our property. Wenewdugswale frequently give tours after breakfast to show how permaculture works and to help guests get an idea of how they can use permaculture principles on their own property to have a more earth-friendly sustainable landscape.

One permaculture element that is readily apparent when entering the property at Cedar House Inn & Yurts is the ditches that seem to be everywhere. Some guests have wondered what are they for? They are swales.

We began digging our swales several years ago. After strong rains we noted where the rain water travelled on the property and that helped us determine where we should locate our swales.

Why have swales you ask?swalewithwater

Swales take rainwater that would normally run off the property and send the water into the ditch to be stored for later use. The water in the ditch is slowly released underground after a rain and also helps the mycorrhizal fungi that lives in the soil. Why help the fungi? The fungi attach to the root nodules on the many fruit and berry plants we have planted and help the plants in the uptake of water and soil nutrients.

Our swales are dug on contour to catch water traveling downhill after the rain. The swales are 1 – 2 feet deep and 1 -2 feet wide. The dirt taken from the ditch is used to make a berm on the lower side of the slope that is used for planting fruit and berries as well as nurse plants. In the future we will talk about nurse plants.

Bottom line is that we think swales are swell and encourage others to add them to their landscapes. You will have happier soil and plants.

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