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Looking for sources about planting in swales in a dry climate.  RSS feed

 
Bee Pughsley
Posts: 8
Location: Georgia, US
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I am looking for sources, either websites or videos about people who are planting inside swales in dry climates such as my own. I had the idea of using the valley of the swale to plant plants that can take the high water amounts that are typically found in swales, much like a sunken bed. I have been told that some people are already doing it but I cannot find any resources or examples of people doing it and would like to learn more. Any sources or advice would be greatly appreciated. I am in USDA zone 8b, Georgia, U.S.

Thank you!
 
Alder Burns
pollinator
Posts: 1387
Location: northern California
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I lived and gardened in GA for 20+ years and I wouldn't call it a dry climate. Nevertheless, only about one year in four would there be enough regular summer rain to grow a garden without supplemental irrigation, so I can understand the benefits of swaling.
If your soil is a clay, you must beware of planting certain things in any situation where water has a chance of standing for any length of time, even in locations where it may later dry out completely. Fruit trees, especially, are likely to drown in such spots, especially if the waterlogging occurs during the growing season (which isn't common, but it does happen often enough in that climate to be a concern). Thus the frequent recommendation to plant your permanent, important plants on the ridges of the swale, especially the downslope one, where the lower roots can access the plume of moisture working its way from the swale, while the base of the plants remains well out of the danger of excess water in the wet times. Down in the swale is the place for soil builders, coppice plants, pasture grasses, perhaps low-investment annuals in the first years till shading becomes an issue.
If however your soil is a free-draining sand.....and there are plenty of places in the state that are thus, where it can rain 4 or 5 inches in a summer storm and there will be no puddles an hour later, and you can light the pine straw on fire two hours later.....in those spots the bottom of the swale might be a very good place to grow in, since you want all the extra moisture, and the organic matter that will end up there by default......
 
Bee Pughsley
Posts: 8
Location: Georgia, US
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Thank you Alder!

I guess I should have been more specific when I used the word "dry" in the description of the climate. I am referring to the moderate to severe drought that plagues south Georgia. We are very humid down here but yet, drought has been a real concern for the past several years.

What types of coppice plants would you recommend for the swales?

I am very interested in willow as a coppice plant for it's medicinal value and use in basketry. I have found junco javelin rush is tolerant of drought and water logging and can be used in basketry as well but has no edible or medicinal value that I know of.

Is there any other beneficial plants that can tolerate water logging but also dry spells? I am especially interested in any edibles or medicinal shrubs or trees that can be coppiced.

I would say I get moderate drainage on most areas of my five acres. Some areas have more clay than others.

Also, if you know of any sources (websites, videos) about permaculture in Georgia, please pass them on. I would love such a source.
 
Alder Burns
pollinator
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Location: northern California
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I would start with observation. What grows around where you live in similar situations....hollows and ditches and gullies where water can stand but also dries out?
Willow might be good, provided it's native or adapted to hot summers.....don't mailorder generic willow from a distant nursery. Poplar and sweetgum are also good coppicers and have some medicinal uses. Remember all of these will become big trees if you let them....overtopping any fruit or nut trees you might be trying to grow nearby.
A few more loose ideas.....the annual or short-lived perennial legumes Sesbania and Daubentonia grow in ditches and flood plains. are you far enough south for clumping bamboos? Bayberry is a possibility too...nitrogen-fixing, medicinal and useful, native, and tolerant of shade, wet, dry....what's not to love?
This forum might be one of the best places to connect with fellow Georgians and Southerners. PDC's are regularly taught at Koinonia....a large-scale communal farm turned on to permaculture near Americus, and by Brandy Hall and her collaborators in ATL.....
For food plants I'd consider berries....blueberries, blackberries, eleagnus maybe.....these won't mind the wet spells and will appreciate the extra moisture.
 
Bee Pughsley
Posts: 8
Location: Georgia, US
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Ah, yes, I can say without a doubt that blackberries love to grow in ditches around here. Good idea!

Yes! we are far enough south for clumping bamboos. Edible and useful, great idea! Bayberry is another good suggestion.

Right now the area is in full sun but will eventually be in part shade. I will keep that in mind.

Thank you for your help and suggestions!
 
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