Alice Kaspar wrote:Isn't a swale just a hugulkultur bed built perpendicular to the downward slope/water flow on a hill?
dj niels wrote:Thought I'd add an update.
Last year, 2013, I started digging a contour swale with a hugelberm on the downhill side. [Our property is actually almost flat, with a very slight slope.] It was "only" about 10 feet long, with the berm about 2 feet high. This spring we laid out a longer swale line continuing our previous swale. A friend carved a rough swale and terrace with his machine, and I have been working on it off and on as I have time. Because we have very sandy soil, with zero topsoil or organic matter, I built a series of compost piles along the terrace to build soil. Then I have been breaking up sticks and branches from a storm that brought down a lot of the local Siberian Elm and Cottonwood branches last fall, to form a 2-foot high hugel-berm, and covering it with leaves that were under the piles of branches, then a layer of clay and topsoil from another garden project. Finally, I sow cover crops like buckwheat, to hold the soil and build topsoil. Right now the swale and berm are about 40 feet long.
The "old" section of the berm has been planted this spring with some perennials like comfrey, topset onions, rhubarb, sorrel, etc, and seems to be doing well, and only needs watered 2 or 3 times a week, instead of daily, as some of my friends say they have to water their gardens.
I also extended the small hugelbed at my home garden, to about 15 feet long and 3-4 feet high, and it is thriving, with only weekly or twice weekly watering, once the plants get established. So I am pleased to report that the hugelbed idea does seem to work even in a dry climate, but it does require water to establish.
I am hoping that when (if?) we get some decent rain this fall, or heavy snow in the winter, that the swale and the woody berm will be able to catch and hold the moisture longer into the spring, and eventually be able to support trees and shrubs without a lot of additional irrigation.
I have noticed that in some of my sunken woody beds, the straw and other OM has either blown away in the wind or fallen through the cracks of the wood, so there is really no soil to speak of. I am planning to build compost piles on top of those beds, to make the soil deeper, and hope that will take care of the problem.
Hope you are all having a great summer (or winter, for those on the other side of the planet).
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