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Swales or not - contour inconvenience  RSS feed

 
Christian Stoehr
Posts: 6
Location: Oakland Township, MI (Zone 5B)
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I am wondering what thoughts you guys might have regarding doing swales, or just regular compost beds on paper for the attached pictured scene.
I painted the green arrows to show the elevation change. Its less then 2 feet, and there seems to be no standing water problem. Its just a very strange grade to be able to build swales on contour. I would have to get something in to move the earth around which I am trying to avoid. I am also in MI where we have plenty of rain, and have a well, so I am not sure how much the swales would benefit.
If I just do regular beds, cover the grass with paper and add 6"+ of compost on top and mulch in between beds, would you worry about the top of all the beds being level or just go with the grade. The brown line shows the alignment I wanted to put the beds in. I was thinking of 10+ rows that way.
I`d like to keep them facing the same way so I can eventually add a portable hoop house easily. South is in the top right corner.

Thanks for any thoughts,
Christian


Front-Yard-1b.jpg
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elle sagenev
Posts: 1275
Location: Zone 5 Wyoming
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Well I think people should take from permaculture what they want and do what works best for them. However, you seem to be implying that since you have a well and it rains a lot you'll never have a water problem. It is my opinion that that is how people get water problems.
 
Christian Stoehr
Posts: 6
Location: Oakland Township, MI (Zone 5B)
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I see what you mean and I am not trying to imply that, I am just trying to give some of the facts of the property so people can make informed comments. I read a lot about not disturbing the soil also, so coming in and bulldozing swales that might not be needed in this case is what I am trying to avoid. I am open to all views thats why I posted it here.
I actually like the ideas of swales and will most likely do them to the right side of the picture all the way down the side yard. Its mainly that area with the contour falling off in two directions at once that I am not sure how to address.
 
elle sagenev
Posts: 1275
Location: Zone 5 Wyoming
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I understand your distaste for disrupting the soil. However, a little disruption that leads to a better set up for the future is a positive.

I honestly can't really say if you should swale or not. I'm not that advanced. I will say that not having standing water isn't necessarily a good thing. Does that mean all the water just runs off your property? There is a lot of standing water on the wheat field in front of my house. That is water that I'm losing to them. So that's not a good thing.
 
Neal Spackman
Posts: 103
Location: Makkah, Saudi Arabia
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Christian it depends on
1: Your goal for the site &
2: Your water budget.


It may be that when it rains your water runs off that yard onto the cityscape and then through a drainage system, or it may be that you're already absorbing the water you've got. Your context & your holistic goal will determine what techniques to use.

But you may also want to consider how putting raised beds in will interact with that rain. Looks to me like if you put beds in on the angle you brought up, you're going to get some water-logged parts of your beds and some dryer parts when it rains.
 
Peter Ellis
Posts: 1432
Location: Central New Jersey
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I see this as a pretty classic Return on investment question. You do not need to swale in order to capture water, at this time. You are not talking about planting trees that would interfere with swale placement at a later time. You have a desire for a hoop house compatible layout, and your contour lines would not produce swales on contour that would work with a hoop house.

So putting in swales would involve a fair bit of work, first just figuring out the contour and then getting them dug - and they would not fit in your hoop house. Lots of work to produce a result that is not really what you want.

Or do a couple of beds oriented without much regard to contour that will fit under a hoop house. Less work and you can do what you want now.

I certainly don't see any compelling argument for swales at this time, rather than the other option you suggested. The one thing I might suggest is not to rely on compost on top of paper without doing some decompaction work on the ground beneath the beds. My choice has been to double dig, once. Breaks up the soil down to about two feet, turns the grass under and from then on stay off of them and don't turn any more.Putting down your paper or cardboard and mulch over that would give your plants a good combination and plenty of loose soil to stretch out in.
 
No prison can hold Chairface Chippendale. And on a totally different topic ... my stuff:
2017 Homesteaders PDC (permaculture design course) & ATC (appropriate technology course) in Montana
https://permies.com/wiki/61764/Homesteaders-PDC-permaculture-design-ATC
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