Nice project piece of land. Thanks for letting us tag along. It looks fertile. Tell us more about it. Where are you in the world? Long hard winters or shorter mild? Is is swamp because it is the bottom of a run off (looks like a fair sized slope in the one picture) or is it another reason (clay soil, road ditch, etc...) How much rainfall? All at once or steady over the months? Does it ever dry out or is always marshy?
From a permie perspective, go with the lands natural tendencies. What do you need that likes lots of water? Do you need a wood lot? Bamboo makes a great riparian boundary plant. It has use for winter forage for animals, soil stabilization, fence posts, building material, as well as an excellent food source (people and animals.) In the NW Red Alder loves that condition. Grows fast and makes good heat.
Would the soil drain better if there were deep rooted plants to break up the soil and get the water down to the water table? Muellin, comfrey, willow trees, Nut trees with deep tap roots? Have you mixed up a handful of dirt in water in a glass jar and let it settle out to see what the soil how the soil is composed?
Tell us about the lay of the land and the current condition of the soil, please. If you could drain it well, what would you prefer to use it for?
Located in North Central WV. The winters can be be mild or hard just depending on mother nature. It is actually the end of a spring before it runs into a culvert. Their is also little springs coming from that hillside and the run off goes directly to that area. Rain fall I need to look up the average for my area sometimes it can flood quite bad. But that is after a really hard day of raining it can handle rain for days if it is not torrential. It is always some what wet except the "island".
I would like to turn it into a food area not only for myself but my poultry who love it over there. Wood lot I don't need as we have close to 400 acres and plenty of it. I will do a soil shake test and pot the picture soon. Also it goes back into a U valley quite a ways. But that is a project for another day as the previous tenants used it as a dump.
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Jason, I can't give specific recommendations as I am pretty unfamiliar with your biome in WV, but I have become pretty familiar with swampy bottoms of foothills out west here. Much depends on how much work you want to do. Around here 400 acres like that could feed a family without any sort of modification. The bottoms here are full of frogs and beaver and snags full of oyster mushrooms and ducks and cranberries and blueberries and all sorts of great stuff. Damn fine living if you're a marshwiggle.
Now, as far as improving it. If you have access to alder or birch or willow or the like you could pound cut stakes of them around the borders of your upland bits and shovel the muck up from your water trenches onto the islands having little canals between them. This basic idea has been the basis for some of the most productive food systems in history. From there it's trial and error in function stacking.
The production of this video is a little dated but the information is great (and brief) as it relates to historic central American agriculture systems. Many of these techniques would be adaptable to your situation, they specifically deal (in brief) with wetlands not just shallow lack chinampa
Freakin' hippies and Squares, since 1986
Location: Central Texas zone 8a, 800 chill hours 28 blessed inches of rain
Since this is below that large hill/s and is spring fed, it will be hard to make into a food plot. With that much hydraulic pressure pushing the water into the low areas, it will be impossible to rearrange the land to be dry. I think your two options will look something like this: soak up as much as possible, and grow food above natural grade.
Dry it out: Black walnut, Dogwood, and maybe willows along the stream banks to act as 'batteries' to pull excess water out of the system. The higher up the hill the better if sunlight is an issue. They are not food crops, per se; but have heavy water requirements to draw off the excess. I know mature pecans require at least 50 gallons of water a day per tree. I am sure Walnuts are comparable. Also cutting the tap root while young will force the feeder roots to do the heavy lifting for water needs, pulling that water from the surface rather than the deeper water table. You might lose some trees in a dry year; but if they are for water absorption, they would be considered sacrificial anyway. Sunflowers also are heavy drinkers. I think your chickens might be in heaven if they could eat sunflower seeds all day. It also generates a lot of bio mass for mulching and composting beds above grade.
Above grade: Would require brining in sand mix or top soil. The water may wick up from the ground, but you have a better chance of not water logging the roots. It may take several seasons to generate enough mass to make a difference. Otherwise it is hauling in dirt/sand.
I will give this more thought and add to the conversation after I have had time to reflect more.
Not to beat a dead horse too much, but chickens do very well on bamboo leaves: So do cows and horses, especially as a winter forage rather than just hay.
Jason, if you're spring gives you year round not too could water, you could try watercress.
Meadowsweet, garden angelica, reed mace, Bog-myrtle ( with fixes nitrogen), willow, poplar. Put fruit trees on a 'hill' half a meter high.
Chestnuts and Pecans can tolerate some wet soil. Chokeberry.
Fish, shrimps, frogs, ducks, geese.
Jason Pitzer : You can try one of the Edible varieties of Fiddlehead ferns, they will come up about the same time as well cultivated Asparagus, they will self
select for the type of soil they like, but will tolerate spring flooding and being covered with sand and silt being carried down from up stream !
Cooked in boiling water till tender and use just butter or a good vinegar and butter .
These do well in season at farmers markets and Oriental (Mom and Pop) type Grocery stores !
All of the Fern Family are prolific Heavy Metal concentrators, so it is a very good ideate KNOW what the land has been used for in the past, No Iron Foundries,
Blacksmiths shops or abandoned Gas Stations !
For the good of the Crafts ! Big AL
Success has a Thousand Fathers , Failure is an Orphan
Where I live, wild elderberries grow at a lot of swamp edges. I don't know how well the cultivated types would do in that situation, but it might be worth a try.
I had skirret that did well in a damp spot, in full sun, until voles tunneled in and ate most of it.
Japanese butterbur, or fuki, grows in damp shade. I've never tasted it - mine has been struggling for a couple of years in heavy clay, and I don't want to weaken it - but I've seen it grow rampant as a landscape plant on moist loams. The stems are eaten as a vegetable in Japan.