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Suburban Colorado swales

 
Forrest Landross
Posts: 4
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Hi all -

First post. Looking for some suggestions on creating a food forest. 7-12 mos ago I planted 6 fruit trees, 3 shade trees in the back lawn which is a maybe 2000 sqft sloping down towards an open space filled w/ Colorado grasses and a drainage creek 100ft from the fence line. Many types of aquatic birds.

I think I would like to build a swale or two in the backyard to trap the water, including the roof water that I will divert (shhh ... I think this is literally against CO water law ... at least water trapment in rain barrels is).

My questions:

1. The fruit trees (and a couple other shade trees) are in rows at two different elevations. Should the trees be inline w/ swales, or in the trench, or?
2. Should I build and plant them now in late July? What perennial cover crops could I successfully plant this late? (any suggestions on where to get the seed?)
3. Should I make the swales hugelbeds?
4. Any other suggestions for the high desert (that is getting a lot of rain this year)?

Thanks!
Forrest
 
Dave Burton
pollinator
Posts: 1026
Location: Greater Houston, TX US Hardy:9a Annual Precipitation: 44.78" Wind:13.23mph Temperature:42.5-95F
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Forrest Landross wrote:
1. The fruit trees (and a couple other shade trees) are in rows at two different elevations. Should the trees be inline w/ swales, or in the trench, or?

This depends on the needs of the plants and trees you are trying to grow. Look at the images below, first:


The above image demonstrates how the downhill side of a swale slowly stores water that is captured by the swale's trench. If you add a hugelkultur bed into the mound on the downhill side, the wood will store the water, and as the wood decays, heat is released. As a result, riparian species and more tropical species can grown on the downhill side of a swale. Therefore, I think it would be advisable to plant your fruit trees either on and below the mound on the downhill side of your swales. Here are some good videos, from geoff lawton and Paul Wheaton, to deepen your understanding:





Forrest Landross wrote:
2. Should I build and plant them now in late July? What perennial cover crops could I successfully plant this late? (any suggestions on where to get the seed?)


For the trees, I think it would be best to plant them around mid-Autumn or early winter. There are still cover crops that can be planted this late into the year: winter rye, hairy vetch, oats. High Mowing Seeds provides a hairy vetch and winter rye seed mix. More seed companies can be found at these permies threads: here and here.

Forrest Landross wrote:
3. Should I make the swales hugelbeds?

That depends on you. As the soil develops, you will start to build humus on the bottom of your soil which is a great store of nutrients and water. Humus lasts longer and and stores water in huge quantities when it is properly cared for. While you are building the humus in your soil, hugelbeds will have a similar effect, storing water and releasing it as it decays. This link goes into more detail of what humus is.

Forrest Landross wrote:
4. Any other suggestions for the high desert (that is getting a lot of rain this year)?

I think that keyline swales might be useful.
 
Forrest Landross
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This is such great info, thanks!!

Forrest

P.s. Does anyone have pics of suburban swales?
 
Dave Burton
pollinator
Posts: 1026
Location: Greater Houston, TX US Hardy:9a Annual Precipitation: 44.78" Wind:13.23mph Temperature:42.5-95F
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Better than just pics, at Geoff Lawton's website, you can watch a 10-minute video about the cool stuff going on in another urban community in the desert and what they're doing to be sustainable.

Also, at Permaculture News there is a short video about mini-swales in an urban landscape.

Some good pictures of a suburban swale can be found at DFW Suburban Permaculture.

P.S. I forgot to say "Welcome to permies!" and please check out the Universal Welcome and Links to Useful Threads to get an understanding of how this forum works.
 
Ryan Sanders
Posts: 13
Location: Southern Colorado
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I agree with what Dave has said thus far. One thing I would add is that in my experience in my Colorado non-clay soils, I have yet to see significant water holding in my swales. This is important in that it opens up the ability to plant trees and such on both sides of the berm, without fear of waterlogging.
 
I agree. Here's the link: http://stoves2.com
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