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Design Advice for Newbie's Backyard  RSS feed

 
Paul Rowe
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Just getting started in hugelkultur and permaculture. Working my way through a myriad of books, articles, etc. I'm stymied on how best to lay out my "hills" in the backyard and at the same time making best use of the flow of water from two directions: down the hill from the house to the lower backyard and across the backyard. I've had a few folks indicate swales, and I've studied up, but I guess I'm having trouble putting it all together from more of a systems thinking perspective. Since stumbling across these topics it's like trying to drink from a fire hydrant - and yet, exciting and enjoyable.

It just so happens I have some giant logs (hickory, oak and gum) in the backyard I was going to pay someone to clear - that plan has completely changed. Obviously reading about hugelkultur spurred me right into permaculture. I was wondering if anyone wouldn't mind taking a look at what I'm working with and giving me some layout ideas for starting out? I have some photos below... Some context for the pictures...

The first picture was taken from the backside of the house. It was about 11AM. The sun rises in the direction of the shed.

The second picture was taken from the farthest side of the backyard and shows the good size slope of the yard (note, compacted clay galore on the hill).

The third picture is of the side of the backyard - Lou says hello! Obviously we have soil erosion on either side of the house downslope... pretty nasty.

The last picture is of what happens when seriously major rain hits. The rain drains off to the right and into a creek. We have a creek right beyond our back fence. Once the rain stops and the water sits... it drains in about 3 - 4 hours for the amount you see there. That amount of rainfall happens very rarely here in Midland, GA (Zone 8A).

Any thoughts... ideas... etc. Would be super helpful. Appreciate any input.
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Caroline Rodgers
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What does rarely mean to you when it comes to huge rainfall: 2x a year, once every 3 years? Etc etc

I'm a newbie as well.  I immediately thought of suggesting the topic in the following article, but once I started researching it......  I've decided to just post this link in case you had a similar idea and let the more knowledgeable people help. 

https://permaculturenews.org/2015/11/06/dont-try-building-hugel-swales-this-is-a-very-and-i-mean-very-bad-idea/
 
Paul Rowe
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Hey Caroline- thanks for the post! This happens 1 - 2 times a year. When we had trees and weeds down there things didn't look so bad from an erosion and flooding perspective.

Just got done reading up on the article you shared. Gets me to looking deeper into swale and berm design as well as if the rain does overload the system then where to send the run off. Perhaps that creek right behind the fence!
 
Angelika Maier
pollinator
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Location: cool climate, Blue Mountains, Australia
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I am a frien of not overthinking it but starting. However don't put in structures concrete anything. Beds are easily changed later good soil created can be moved. The only thing is try to figure out were the orchard is, in case you have to net, keepit close together. Otherwise look that it does not shade your other growing area. If I would redo my orchard I would espalier. There is a dip in your garden. Does it get boggy? Would it be a batural pond? The more you physically work in the garden the more you will understand how nature works at your place, were the cold wind comes from etc....I have a description on how to draw a scaled plan of your garden: https://mountainherbs.net/blogs/news/how-to-print-a-scaled-base-plan-of-your-property
 
Paul Rowe
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Hey Angelika, thank you for the post. You're right. Get started! I'm working on the drawings here and there after work. I really appreciate the link and I liked the part about not using some fancy software. I totally agree! Although I do use OpenOffice Draw (MS Visio clone) because it is natural to me due to my profession.
 
Daron Williams
pollinator
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Location: Olympia, WA - Zone 8a/b
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Any chance that you can post some sort of contour map? Does your property slope all the way towards the stream? Looking at the pics I almost thought I could see a low point at the base of the hill and then a slight rise towards the wooded area. Is that accurate?

I would not make a hugel bed on contour. But you could dig a small swale on contour on the hillside. This would help with erosion. Building some small terraces is another idea that could help on the hillside. I would build the hugel bed on the lower portion after the swale to create a nice area for planting. If there is a natural low point in the property where water collects or at least stops eroding you could dig a small pond and either go for a natural method to seal it or line it. The hugel bed could be placed around the pond to give more diversity of habitat and the soil you removed to make the pond would help build the hugel.

You could also direct rain water from your downspoutes directly to the swale. Perhaps one swale up towards the top of the hill for this purpose and then another swale a little lower for large rain events. Then the pond down lower with a hugel bed and some terraces intermixed. You could then incorporate a chicken area in the shady forested area or some sort of shade tolerant edible planting. Anyways, I'm going a bit overboard but I figured might as well have some fun!
 
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