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keyline agriculture when you don't own the key point

Posts: 35
Location: Kentucky
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there's an acre and a half of SE facing slope below our house site set aside for orchards. the access rd. runs through it and is presently the primary drainage path through that part of the property. it delivers water to a seasonal creek that will be dammed but not terribly high due to site constraints.

i know i could put small ponds on the hill to catch water but i can't bring myself to put ponds where i can put fruit trees.

my question is, is there a pattern where i can best slow the water  and keep it on my site?

my guess is that traditional contour lines will work better than a key line based layout.

we are planning to put hugelkultur beds on the downhill side of the rows of trees.

Posts: 146
Location: St. Louis, MO
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Do you have a topo map of the area, or any pictures to go by?
Posts: 4
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To: “Mule Tree”
From: Royal A. Purdy, A. H. Tuttle and Company
Re: keyline agriculture when you don't own the key point

Folks,                                                                                                      03/02/2011 PM

Of course the most efficient method of rainfall water storage on land is in the soil itself (increasing the sod surface area via ripping cultivation helps accomplish this and “keyline” pattern cultivation in particular); secondary to this soil capture is water capture from runoff - sourced on and off site via channels leading to storage devices such as ponds, etc. and subsequent distribution via these same means or other.

Generally speaking, the keypoint needn’t be located within “your owned” property. Simply locate the relevant keypoint governing your site; visualize a level topographic line from this said keypoint toward your site and if your site lays above this line you will cultivate parallel to this line and “up” or conversely – if your site lays below this extended level line, you will rip parallel “down” .

Your question seems to imply abandoning topography water shifting effects and pond storage due to perceived impediments or obstructions such as driveways, orchard trees or other and wanting to utilize some sort of the various available water catchments other than “ponds”; but this is where the soil capture discipline shines and it can be slightly altered to avoid obstacles’ by “restarting” a level cultivation line when an obstruction is met and (from this new level contour line) again cultivating “parallel up” (or, "down" as the case may be). You need to be careful however, not to create a circumstance of directed water flow to non intended catchment areas prior to loss at the lower property line or an increased storm water event on neighboring properties. Incidentally as you probably know – the driveway itself will be a great rain event water capture device itself.

Hope this has been helpful to you. Be safe.


Royal A. Purdy
Clear Choice © - Elysian ©; and Yeomans Plow Dealer, Sales and Service
A. H. Tuttle and Company
1007 County Road 8
Farmington, NY.  14425
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