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gravel filled swale, good idea?

 
Gilbert Fritz
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Location: Denver, CO
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I'm laying out a small swale to spread and infiltrate the run-off from a downspout. Would it be a bad idea to fill this with large gravel? I'm hoping the water would still spread well down it, but the gravel would keep water from evaporating, provide cover to critters, and not wash away or compact like an organic mulch. Also, I'm digging the swale along a brick pathway, and I don't want to destabilize it with a void nearby; seems like gravel could help me out here.
 
Ryan Tollmann
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Gilbert Fritz wrote:I'm laying out a small swale to spread and infiltrate the run-off from a downspout. Would it be a bad idea to fill this with large gravel? I'm hoping the water would still spread well down it, but the gravel would keep water from evaporating, provide cover to critters, and not wash away or compact like an organic mulch. Also, I'm digging the swale along a brick pathway, and I don't want to destabilize it with a void nearby; seems like gravel could help me out here.


That sounds like a french drain, and it helps prevent soil washouts, i do masonry and i put a layer of 1in stone borders along brick walkways for just that purpose...assuming you didnt use sand joints in your walkway, if you did youd need a wood border against the brick then the stone..
 
Marco Banks
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Location: Los Angeles, CA
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It would seem that putting gravel in your swale will only increase infiltration as deep as the gravel.  But if you build soil structure with a healthy fungal network and lots of living roots punching down through the soil profile, your infiltration will be excellent and you will not need gravel.

Have you ever watched any of Gabe Brown's stuff on YouTube?  He's a farmer in Bismark ND who has practiced no-till farming for a couple of decades now.  Google him -- he's got a bunch of talks that he's done for various groups.  The reason I bring him up is that he often talks about water infiltration and how healthy his soil has become in this regard.  Once your soil is healthy, full of worms, filled with fungi (which glues the soil into crumbly particles that allow air and water to flow through) you'll get great water infiltration. 

I can think of one really great reason to NEVER dump gravel around on your soil: you'll forever be digging through it.  The guy who owned my house before I bought it had rock mulch on the side of the house.  I've been raking that up for 16 years.  I think I've pretty much got it all, but still, every now and then, I'll find one of those damn rocks.  It took me two years of hard work to get most of it. 

Save the gravel for a driveway.
 
chip sanft
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Location: 18 acres & heart in zone 4 (central MN). Current abode: Knoxville (zone 6 /7)
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Marco Banks wrote:I can think of one really great reason to NEVER dump gravel around on your soil: you'll forever be digging through it.  The guy who owned my house before I bought it had rock mulch on the side of the house.  I've been raking that up for 16 years.  I think I've pretty much got it all, but still, every now and then, I'll find one of those damn rocks.  It took me two years of hard work to get most of it. 
Save the gravel for a driveway.


I might even leave off gravel there! The people who lived in our house before us graveled a parking area out back. That stuff gets everywhere. I find it buried in the manure pile, emerging from the soil in the garden, and all over the grass. It's a pestilence.

Gilbert, I wonder if filling the swale with coarse wood chips might not do the things you want in terms of discouraging evaporation etc. They would resist compaction, at least for a while. The coarse chips and leaves from your roof would at the same time slowly be breaking down into soil that you could dig out and move after a couple years. If the swale is properly placed, the resulting rich soil shouldn't wash away.
 
I agree. Here's the link: http://stoves2.com
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