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Do I need swales?

 
Isaac Hill
gardener
Posts: 356
Location: Beaver County, Pennsylvania (~ zone 6)
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I'm pretty new to this whole permaculture thing but I've always loved plants, and when my mother moved to a semi-rural half acre I thought "orchard!" and then I researched a bit and I thought "food forest!" so now I'm gonna plant a food forest. Swales seem to me to be important for dry areas, but since the place has a good water balance, I wasn't going to dig any at all. I want to make sure I'm not missing something before I plant the trees and am unable to dig swales though... so do I need them if water is not really a problem?

Thanks,

Salamander
 
Jordan Lowery
pollinator
Posts: 1528
Location: zone 7
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no you dont NEED swales.

the next question though is can you get too much water on your place, tons of rain for example. swales prevent erosion.
 
Isaac Hill
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Location: Beaver County, Pennsylvania (~ zone 6)
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Not really, the area that the food forest is located (the frond of the house) is actually a bit higher with a very gradual incline all the way to the back of the house where the raised beds are, the only place that gets really wet is a short area on the north side of the house that never gets sun where I was thinking about putting some mushroom logs.

There are also already some mature trees in the front (most of them are black locust!) so I don't think erosion is going to be a problem.

Swales just seem like a whole lot of work that I don't wanna do if I don't need to.
 
Gary Park
Posts: 146
Location: St. Louis, MO
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It seems like swales are comparable to a greenhouse in at least one way; They moderate temperatures(warmer in winter, cooler in summer)-due to surface angles, slowing wind over the surface, creating microclimates.  They also moderate moisture--when really wet, they soak it up, and when it's really dry they release it.  For fruit trees and general gardening, it will work on any surface, but you'll never know the difference unless you try it.  I would suggest planting TWO groups of plants in the same area---1 with a swale or two above or below it, and 1 without the swale.  Then you can decide if you want to do the whole area that way.
 
Jordan Lowery
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Swales just seem like a whole lot of work that I don't wanna do if I don't need to.


you dont have to, swales are not the end all be all for everyone
 
Paul Cereghino
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Location: South Puget Sound, Salish Sea, Cascadia, North America
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In a way, with your raised beds, you've already created swale/berm topography
 
Kirk Hutchison
Posts: 418
Location: Los Angeles, CA
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They're great if you want to put them in, but natural forests do not have swales and you can do just fine without them.
 
Paul Cereghino
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In my neighborhood some describe our natural forest floor as 'hummock and pit topography', from windthrow and downed logs.
 
Isaac Hill
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Posts: 356
Location: Beaver County, Pennsylvania (~ zone 6)
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Word. I think the yard is lumpy enough. Thanks. 
 
Chris Dean
Posts: 108
Location: South New Mexico Mountains
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To resurrect an old thread, I was wondering myself if I needed a swale. I wanted to add that choosing something native or something that specifically grows in regions like yours is important. We get an average of 30 inches a year, but sometimes it's 10 and sometimes it's 50. What I want for this area is something with a deep root that will enable the plant/tree to survive in drought, and something that likes heat but can tolerate light freezes and won't mind periods of lots of water so long as they aren't sitting in a puddle. Just an example
 
Tyler Ludens
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Posts: 9421
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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I think swales might help moderate our wild swings....at least I hope so.....
 
Chris Dean
Posts: 108
Location: South New Mexico Mountains
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Me too Tyler. I've had plans to build some but haven't completed any yet. Do you know of any examples in the area?
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
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Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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I don't know of any local examples of long swales. We have a short swale/ basin on our place which is working well to slow and infiltrate water, but so far it hasn't produced any miracles, being just the one little structure. We plan to put in a real honest to goodness approx 300' long swale in the next week or two. Have high hopes for this one!
 
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