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Mini swale?

 
Posts: 110
Location: suburbs of Chicago USDA zone 5b
2
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My house is up on a little hill, several feet above street level. The front (south side) slopes fairly gently to the street, and the east side has a retaining wall between the house and driveway, but the north and west sides are pretty steep, 45 degrees or more. The north side I'm leaving alone for now because it's covered in raspberries, but I'm wondering if I could dig a little swale on the west side. It's not really a big enough space for the size swales I've read about, but I'm thinking I could dig a trench, maybe a foot wide, along the contour, pack it with straw and use it as a path, and in doing so increase the water available to the plants I'm putting below it.
Thoughts?
 
master pollinator
Posts: 11368
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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I'm also trying to find places for mini-swales and basins throughout the area right around our house. I think they could be helpful and useful in slowing runoff.

 
pollinator
Posts: 170
Location: Emporia, KS
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I can attest that even very small swales can make a big difference for water retention. Give it a try!
 
Posts: 57
Location: Los Angeles
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I would be cautious of the retaining wall if its not porous -- if a bunch of water collects behind it, it may blow it out.
But I don't know the layout of your place, and I have seen many solid retaining walls buckle from water pressure and such.
 
Thea Olsen
Posts: 110
Location: suburbs of Chicago USDA zone 5b
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The swale would be on the opposite side of the house from the retaining wall.
 
Posts: 26
Location: Richmond, Va
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I've put in mini-swales and have had incredible results. Also putting in a mini-swale in a zone that isn't super water stressed helps just enough in the hot dry summer.
 
Posts: 64
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Go for it! Love our two small swales inside our fence and even the one I may have put too high on the berm seems to be doing its job as well. Obviously doesn't hold as much water as a full on swale, but a foot across and a foot or so down is still worth it. I just wish the utilities people hadn't decided it would be awesome to run the power and multimedia cables in very long arch through our entire back yard- makes it a bit difficult to dig out a swale when you know there is a cable that could cause serious harm if you hit it. While they are supposed to be buried well below a foot, I was double digging last year and cut through numerous lines that hadn't been marked. I didn't want to chance it that the cables were in that three foot zone of the markers while digging the swales...
 
Posts: 411
Location: Georgia
13
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Swales and terraces should work on a miniature scale much like they work on a large scale. I would think it
would be very beneficial for anybody to work small first and get it perfected to some extent before attempting
larger projects.
 
pollinator
Posts: 4437
Location: North Central Michigan
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it sounds like a great idea..i dug a very tiny swale on the downhill side of one of my cherry trees as it was suffering severely from drought as the water was just running down hill away from it..and it really worked nicely..it was only a couple feet long and i filled it with mulch..but it held enough of the water running down the hill to save the cherry tree..

there is backfill around our house and our drainfield that at first was very steep, but i planted it with trees, shrubs and perennials and now it seems more gentle..still is a chore to walk up it..Most of my fruit trees are near the "bottom" of the steep slope but i have perennials and shrubs on the higher steeper areas and it can be a challenge for them to get water if it runs off to fast..the trees at the bottom of the slope get lots of water..and they are doing really well.
 
Alex Ames
Posts: 411
Location: Georgia
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I have construction pits in my backyard that continue to sink even after several loads of dirt. The effect is
a swale. I have one pit planted in perennial flowers, daylilies, lavender, cone flowers, saint johns wort and
I shake seed heads of parsley, cilantro and basil along the paths around it. As the water flows down into the
swale I have set up a system of mini swales by putting small logs across and packing with dirt and mulching
them in. The water comes down very gradually.
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The City calls upon her steadfast protectors. Now for a tiny ad:
dry stack retaining wall
https://permies.com/t/85178/dry-stack-retaining-wall
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