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Hugelkultur, swales and Keyline Design

 
Adrien Lapointe
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Location: Kingston, Canada (USDA zone 5a)
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Owen,

how would you integrate hugelkulturm swales and keyline design?
 
Owen Hablutzel
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Hi Adrien,

One way to integrate hugelkulture swales with keyline design would be to lay out the hugelswales in the keyline pattern, slightly off contour, running a bit off-slope out toward the ridges... In the ordered design process that keyline uses even if you wanted to use more standard hugelkulture swales you would still do the planning and positioning of these in the landscape based on keyline priniciples... the shape of the land essentially guides the layout of all that follows... following this sequence will result in sensible and effective placement of elements, even if you are building smaller scale hugelswale features rather than ones running across a whole property... the design process guides sensible placement of these, or any features needed in your design...
 
Dan Grubbs
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Location: northwest Missouri, USA
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Forgive my ignorance, but could one cut a series of 200-foot swales crossing on contour of a long slope and connect them at alternating ends creating a fully interconnected series? I guess one would simply make an overflow at one end just slightly lower than the downhill side of the swale so the overflow would loop around in a slight trough and flow into the end of the next swale, thus snaking back and forth across the slope until it got to the last swale or pond. Does this sound feasable? A good portion of my pasture has a drop of about 40 feet in a run of about 1,000 feet. The area is about 1,000 X 200 feet. Am I making any sense here? My desire would be for the downhill burm to be a hugelswale with plantings of various and diverse functional things.
 
Owen Hablutzel
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Thanks Dan,

Swale systems such as you describe (if I am picturing correctly) can be and have been designed and accomplished... Yes, you can design a 'spillway' at either end of a swale (and all swales generally should have spillways anyway), or you could actually put the spillway anywhere else along the swale as well... wherever some extra water will fulfill the most functions or address your goals best.

A question you might want to consider on the pasture area you describe is whether or not you need an entire series of interconnected swales at all... ? This will depend on what your goals are for the land. If your goals include a large hugelswale at the base of the slope for growing a diverse yielding polyculture, along with generally harvesting all the rainwater you can, and having healthy pasture above the hugelswale, then perhaps you don't need all the other swales... and could save the expense/time/energy of building them. Instead of harvesting water along relatively thin strips in the landscape, every so often, you could manage the pasture to be a 'sponge' over its entire surface area (not just thin linear strips), then catch anything else in the very bottom swale hugel... Managing for an effective water cycle--creating a sponge--on all of the land will store more water more evenly across the pasture, and can be accomplished by holistic planned grazing, by keyline sub-soiling on keyline pattern cultivation, or many other strategies which can be integrated to generate what I sometimes call an 'amplified topsoil explosion'! We will cover these in some detail in the Colorado workshop, July 22-24... hope we see you there!
 
Dan Grubbs
Posts: 495
Location: northwest Missouri, USA
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Thanks very much, Owen. I have some additional things to think about now.
 
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