Hi I have a field with a slight slope. I'd like to slowly put in swales and plant trees on the down hill side to establish a food forest. I have an old farmall H tractor and would like to use what I have to build the swales if possible. I plan on adding a 3 point hitch to the tractor and that would allow me to use a rear box blade( no front end loader). I have never had any experience with a box blade except a friend of mine has used one to work on his pond. He says he can push more dirt with a box blade than his front end loader. I do have heavy clay here but I was thinking if I do it at the right time when the dirt is a little moist, but not soaked, maybe I could use a box blade to push the earth toward the down hill side...the piled up earth would be loose I would think.
I don't know what do you think, is it possible? Or is it not going to work at all? I know I could rent a tractor or buy a backhoe for a decent price, but I'd really like to do it with my existing tractor, unless it would be a waist of time and not get any decent results.
I also would rather do swales I think than just contour plowing. Swales would last longer right? It seems a contour plowing would need repeated.
having attempted this there are some obstacles that are hard to overcome. 1rst the way a boxblade on the back of tractor means you have to drive over the mound of the swell as you build thus compacting the hill. What I have done is rip the soil along the contour line using only the tines of the boxblade, then placing the tractor uphill back the boxblade (tines removed) into the ripped earth and pushing the dirt downhil of the now created swell. I would not want that to be my 1rst experience using a boxblade. Almost quicker to use the boxblade to rip the earth along the contour and use a shovel to clean out the ripped dirt then repeat.
I was thinking of something similar to this, but using by two-bottom moldboard plow to cut swales parallel to the keyline and rolling the soil over on the downhill side and then detatch the plow and put on my back blade at a slight angle (road-grade style) and then use the blade to drag turned over soil into a burm, and the furrow from the moldboard plow being the swale. With several passes, this seemed like it might work. I'm going to try it this fall after our second hay cutting.
Dan Grubbs wrote:I was thinking of something similar to this, but using by two-bottom moldboard plow to cut swales parallel to the keyline and rolling the soil over on the downhill side and then detatch the plow and put on my back blade at a slight angle (road-grade style) and then use the blade to drag turned over soil into a burm, and the furrow from the moldboard plow being the swale. With several passes, this seemed like it might work. I'm going to try it this fall after our second hay cutting.
This does work. It works best if you can do it in a single pass with the back blade, as the subsequent passes will compact the berm. If you drive with the wheels in the dead furrow, the angle turns out about right.
You can also build micro swales with just a moldboard plow, but it takes a lot fiddling with the plow adjustments because you are running "backwards"--the left wheel in the dead furrow instead of the right.
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Location: northwest Missouri, USA
posted 6 years ago
I will keep that in mind, Scott. Thank you very much.
Well, I did finish my first swale and berm project. It ended up working very well with a two-bottom plow and a drag blade set in a sweep position. I made several passes with the plow moving earth downhill. Then dropped the plow and hitched on the blade so it would sweep soil out of the ditch and up onto the berm. Multiple passes with this technique worked well. I have photos in another thread here. I would recommend this to anyone who has access to a small tractor and a plow and blade. I staked the swale one evening, then in about 4 hours, had the swale and berm built using this technique. It ended up being about 18 inches deep and 4 feet wide and the berm was maybe 20 inches tall and the overall length was about 250 feet on contour. I have since covered the berm with a thick coat of hay to protect it because I won't plant until spring. And, I have filled the swale with small tree branches and some hay to begin to decompose in the swale for good decomposition.
Here's a link to the other thread with the photos.
Built a second swale today using the same method. The process seems to be working well. I think the key is using a drag blade that you can swing so that it pushes dirt off to the downhill side as you pull it. Once you have the earth pushed into a berm, then reattach the plow and go deeper, repeating switching back and forth between the plow and the blade until you have the swale to the depth you want. I admit, it does make a very gradual slope up the berm, so I did just a bit of hand work to flatten out the bottom of the swale.