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Need help on planting my swale berm  RSS feed

 
Posts: 29
Location: California Sierra Foothils, 2,500 ft. Elevation zone 8b-9a
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solar woodworking
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Last week I created a contour swale at the top of my south facing property. A little info. Our average yearly rainfall is 53" though last year we had 110", the rain comes only during a six month period. In the summer we have 2 months of daily highs in the mid nineties with a humidity average in the mid to high teens. The berm/swale is almost perfectly south facing so it will really cook in the summer.

Work to date had me seed it mainly with deer resistant annual and perennial flowers and also a mix of white and rose clovers. I also have buckwheat, daikon seed and 5 barefoot fruit trees not planted or seeded yet. I have added no amendments to the berm other than covering it some old half rotted rice straw.

My questions are where on the berm should the fruit trees be? On the north side, top or lowest side. The trees are, Apple, Pluot, apricot, nectarine and plum. Should I also seed the berm with daikon and buckwheat? Will the buckwheat choke out the flowers and the clovers? What else would you recommend planting? What about in the swale? Leave it dirt, throw some brush in or seed it?

On another note, maybe for another thread. Should I continue making contour swales down the slope or put keylines in. My well is in the shallow valley below the new swale. With last years crazy rains my well water got muddy. So I want to divert water around the well to mitigate getting tainted water again.
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pollinator
Posts: 465
Location: Virginia USDA 7a/b
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bee chicken food preservation forest garden hugelkultur hunting
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I will take a swing,others can chime in

Jack Tassoni wrote:Last week I created a contour swale at the top of my south facing property. A little info. Our average yearly rainfall is 53" though last year we had 110", the rain comes only during a six month period. In the summer we have 2 months of daily highs in the mid nineties with a humidity average in the mid to high teens. The berm/swale is almost perfectly south facing so it will really cook in the summer.



This seems to me to be opposite, the hottest part of the summer the should be overhead pretty much, this is optimal for winter crops and basically gives you an extended growing season on the downhill side. Nice!

Jack Tassoni wrote: Work to date had me seed it mainly with deer resistant annual and perennial flowers and also a mix of white and rose clovers. I also have buckwheat, daikon seed and 5 barefoot fruit trees not planted or seeded yet. I have added no amendments to the berm other than covering it some old half rotted rice straw.

My questions are where on the berm should the fruit trees be? On the north side, top or lowest side. The trees are, Apple, Pluot, apricot, nectarine and plum. Should I also seed the berm with daikon and buckwheat? Will the buckwheat choke out the flowers and the clovers? What else would you recommend planting? What about in the swale? Leave it dirt, throw some brush in or seed it?



I would avoid using penetrating/rotting roots in a swale like daikon/buckwheat. It tends to promote direct downhill seepage in my opinion and not infiltration. I like to have perennials on the swale so the roots keep it intact. In this scenario I would look for taller shrubs that reach over the ditch and provide shade to retain moisture in the ditch. Then I would put those fruit trees above by at least 24" vertically, and make them reach for water in the shaded ditch. None of those like wet feet and most will rot and have disease issues if left in a wet zone.

Jack Tassoni wrote: On another note, maybe for another thread. Should I continue making contour swales down the slope or put keylines in. My well is in the shallow valley below the new swale. With last years crazy rains my well water got muddy. So I want to divert water around the well to mitigate getting tainted water again.



Keylines are technically on contour (or very close) because you don't want much more than a trickle making it out onto the ridge. In California you are unlikely to have regulatory success with ridge ponds from what I hear from my friends in the biz. Swales are larger and prone to washing out, and generally should not be truly on contour unless you really know what you are doing and have really good equipment to find the lines in my opinion, but you do want them to fill and retain in the wet times. I like the idea of digging a small ditch, make sure you are very close to on-contour by checking it for fill during a rain, then make the final cut. They must have a well-constructed off-flow area. I use off-contour hugelswales. I always cheat a little (like 1% grade) so in a large rain or very wet period with saturation there is a way for flows to move on the surface without washing out for the hugelswales. I think generally keylines with a Yeoman's plow or similar for small lateral flow channels would be generally used for forage, where you need to be driving on it, with equipment. Mark Shepard has a great intro video on the concept with a short description of some alternate items at the very end. He recommends alley (trees), swale, berm pattern.

Hopefully that video gives you an idea of how to approach the larger plan.
 
Jack Tassoni
Posts: 29
Location: California Sierra Foothils, 2,500 ft. Elevation zone 8b-9a
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Thanks TJ, I see your point with the Daikon. Because my entire property slopes south at an average of 11% it bakes my soil. Good point on the Suns position, never thought of that.

I dug the swale with an exit on the west end, no slope just a lower height berm. This is the furthest point from the shallow valley and above numerous 60(?) year old pear trees.

My understanding of keylines was to move water away from the valley and onto the ridges. To do this they could not be on contour but fairly close to level.  I was thinking of removing all but 1 of the rippers on my box blade to do the keylines.
 
Tj Jefferson
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Location: Virginia USDA 7a/b
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Jack Tassoni wrote:

My understanding of keylines was to move water away from the valley and onto the ridges. To do this they could not be on contour but fairly close to level.  I was thinking of removing all but 1 of the rippers on my box blade to do the keylines.



Yup, just a slight downhill toward the secondary ridgeline. Only thing is the boxblade is not likely to get deep enough on that grade I don't think. Anyone you know with a potato plow or subsoiler? The idea is basically to create an underground channel or disturbed soil that draws it out to the ridges.
 
Morning came much too soon and it brought along a friend named Margarita Hangover, and a tiny ad.
Do you prefer white or black rocket ovens?
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