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Swale Idea Complication!!

 
Posts: 104
Location: Hopkinsville, KY (Western KY) Zone 7
2
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I just needing some insight on some swale plans I have. I live in central Texas and in many places there are limestone shelves that protrude from the surface. The rock itself is not a problem for me at this time, but they almost make a perfect landscape for swales. There limestone shelves have created a step like feature (there are about three) as my land gows uphill. It'd be too easy to just contruct the swales on the steps, but they are not level. instead the "sag" to one side. It'd be hard to build the swales on contour because then I'd have to cut through the rock shelf and there is a lot that can just go awry. So what I was thinking was start building the swales on the higher end of each step and sort of just "toss" the dirt to the down hill side. It would help level the step's surface and make it easier. But of course I couldn't do that across the whole length of the step, so could I just stop one swale and start another next to it, say about two feet lower. In other words, the swales would step down from end to end.
I attached two picture for visual purposes. The image was takan from a soil survey of my county, but the terrain is nearly identical to my land. The second one has what I explain as my plan, the stepping swales with each swale no more than two feet about the next one on the same shelf.
Please let me know what you all think and please give your best advice

Thanks in advance!!!

Jon
Survey.PNG
[Thumbnail for Survey.PNG]
Image of terrain wiht shelves
With-Swales.png
[Thumbnail for With-Swales.png]
Same image but with the idea of the swales in place
 
steward
Posts: 4618
Location: Zones 2-4 Wyoming and 4-5 Colorado
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Seems like a good plan to me Jon.

Do you have access to any top soil or compost, from nearby, to add to it? Or would you need any?
 
pollinator
Posts: 4328
Location: Anjou ,France
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Hi Jon
do you have any pictures .
Limestone can be difficult material to farm as it can absorb water making your swales a bit redundant . Sometimes you cannot move the water as it just goes down to form caves etc see "Karst" scenery or the burren in Ireland (http://www.burrennationalpark.ie/ )

David
 
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I bought some land close to Shoepeg Mountain in Uvalde County which will have similar issues, I would love to see how your swales work out. I think my first approach would be to see what the plant growth tells me about what the water is doing now. Maybe there is a system already there which can be tweaked . In my location any crops will have to be protected from the deer and hogs so open plantings will have to be resistant, perhaps b;ackhaws or Mexican Plums. If you re trying to attract deer, texas persimman is both resistant foliage and irresistable fruit.
 
Jon La Foy
Posts: 104
Location: Hopkinsville, KY (Western KY) Zone 7
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Miles, I have what I think will ne enough top soil. Its very alkaline so I need to improve it before I can grow crops in it. We have goats that free roam and they are helping out fertilizing the land.
David, my phone has no storage card so I can't take pictures but I'll see what I can do. I looked up karst and I don't think I'll have that problem, I don't have a limestone surface, It'sall underground.
G, I'm in lampasas county north of you. It's a distance to drive but if you're ever in the area stop by. I'll show you what I have starting up, maybe it can help you out. I don't plan on attracting deer or pigs, yet. I just want to get the soil good for growing and restore my creek and plant a food forest.

Thanks for all of the replies, everyone
 
Posts: 529
Location: North-Central Idaho, 4100 ft elev., 24 in precip
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Why swales? It seems like you may be better off with terraces with all of that rock and if your land is like the illustration you posted it's almost already terraced...go with what nature is showing you instead of fighting it. Explore other options...Just a thought.
 
Jon La Foy
Posts: 104
Location: Hopkinsville, KY (Western KY) Zone 7
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Dave, thanks for the insight. I had considered terraces, I really like the look of them. The picture is slightly deceiving since there is no scale. The protruding rock shelf is only about eight inches thick. In the pictures it looks like a few feet, but It's not. There's about thirty feet of spacing between each step. Just looking at it in person it almost looks like a swale already. I also want swales so I can slow the water and hopefully restore my creek. I'm not sure if terraces would do that. Besides, I'd have to buy material for terraces, rock, dirt, mortar, etc. I could essentially dig the swale for free, I dug our ~15,000 gallon pond by hand, and we dug through the limestone.
 
Dave Dahlsrud
Posts: 529
Location: North-Central Idaho, 4100 ft elev., 24 in precip
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It sounds like the right terrace sytem might really work well in your situation unless your dead set on the swales. Have you read or heard about how Sepp Holzer does his tarraces? To my knowledge he doesn't use a traditional swale system at all on his farm. The terraces do slow the water and should help to restore your creek. Thirty feet in between shelfs/terrace sounds pretty good. You could cut and fill with the existing soil to create your flat-ish terrace, slope the ground down as steeply as it will hold together to the next terrace level (no stone or mortar needed), at the base he makes a silt/sediment trap (basically a shallow swale), then another flat area/terrace(with maybe a slight lip up to catch more sediment depending on your soil type), then repeat all the way down the slope. You can pitch the terraces slightly to chanel the water back and forth across the face of the slope from one side to the other until you get to the bottom (creek bed maybe?). I don't know if this makes sense or not, I'll try to put together a drawing or something in the next few days to help paint a better picture if need be. I think that swales would help, but maybe not as much a a system of terraces done the Sepp way. I guess I'm saying try not to get stuck in the one size fits all one technique to cure the problem mentality...you could overlook a better fix. Not saying swales are wrong but something else might be better/more functions etc. and we should try to look at all of the options available in the permaculture wardrobe.
 
Jon La Foy
Posts: 104
Location: Hopkinsville, KY (Western KY) Zone 7
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Dave, I have a pretty good idea what you're saying, but a diagram would help. What would hold in the fill if no stone or mortar is necessary? I thought terraces needed a retaining wall...
I don't know anything of Sepp Holzer's techniques. I tend to follow Geoff Lawton's mind set, hence the swales and desire to restore my creek.
My eventual plan is to turn my hillsides, on each side if the creek, into a food forest. I know swales are tree growing systems so I figured it to be best. But I'll look more into terraces. Is there a video or website you recommend?
 
Dave Dahlsrud
Posts: 529
Location: North-Central Idaho, 4100 ft elev., 24 in precip
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I think if you look a richsoil.com there is a sepp holzer article that Paul wheaton wrote with some YouTube clips that show what I'm talking about. Also if you Google sepp holzer terraces and raised beds you'll find a wealth of information. It seemed like quité a few of the pictures and articles that popped up on the google search link back to permits so there is quité a bit of info to be found here.
 
Posts: 1131
Location: Central Wyoming -zone 4
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i think if youre stuck on swales they would lend themselves nicely to that hill side
without actually having looked at it, id say with the way you described it they would work greatly as terraces, with excavated stones accentuating the existing outcrops or extending them for microclimate... and the depressions above suitable for short term frog ponds?
 
Jon La Foy
Posts: 104
Location: Hopkinsville, KY (Western KY) Zone 7
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Dave Dahlsrud wrote:I think if you look a richsoil.com there is a sepp holzer article that Paul wheaton wrote with some YouTube clips that show what I'm talking about. Also if you Google sepp holzer terraces and raised beds you'll find a wealth of information. It seemed like quité a few of the pictures and articles that popped up on the google search link back to permits so there is quité a bit of info to be found here.



Sorry it's been so long since I've replied. Been really busy with the holidays and such. I checked out that article by Paul Wheaton but I didn't look at all of richsoil.com yet. I think terraces might be better since there are some already established trees where I want the food forest. The berms for swales might run into a tree, and I know you shouldn't pile dirt at the base of a tree. I'll post a picture when I can, maybe on Saturday. In the meantime I'll look up more of Holzer's terraces.

Devon Olsen wrote:i think if youre stuck on swales they would lend themselves nicely to that hill side
without actually having looked at it, id say with the way you described it they would work greatly as terraces, with excavated stones accentuating the existing outcrops or extending them for microclimate... and the depressions above suitable for short term frog ponds?



Devon, I plan on putting check dams in my creek and that will provide a great habitat for frogs, even though I get enough of them already,
 
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