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Swales in wet areas

 
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I am new to this site and recently purchased 42 acres in SD zone 4b. We have a large shelter belt and large “farm yard” and more than 20 acres pasture. Besides our farm yard and house, most of the ground is very flat and low and water accumulates in many areas. We have a large cattail area (a couple acres) and a “slough” or creek that was dug in a semi circular path through the pasture long before we owned the property.  There is water in it most of the year if not year around. We have thought about trying to make some swales around the somewhat higher ground of the farm yard. Would this help or hinder our water issues? We want to plant an orchard in pasture south of our trees where there is dry ground in some areas. Will swales help? We really want to drain areas, but not sure if there is anywhere to drain to since we are low ground. We have also considered digging ponds for water to go to. But again not sure if that would help or hinder.
 
pollinator
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Location: Massachusetts, Zone:6/7, AHS:4, Rainfall:48in even Soil:SandyLoam pH6 Flat
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It sounds like your land is "swampy" What you need is mounds/hills not depression.
Hugel/Mound aka hugelculture
Aqua/Water aka Aquaculture

So I would build an anti-swale to plant the fruit trees on. These fruit trees would be on high and dry land.
And the dirt for the anti-swale would come for an swale that is running right next to it or somewhere else.

So basically build the swales, but dont plant in them plant in the excavated land. I would make the swales 8ft wide and 2ft below grade and the high and dry mounds 8ft wide and 2ft above grade for a difference of 4ft.

You might even be able to get some type of fish, going or duckweed for your cattle, etc
 
Sharlene Swier
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Thanks. I wasn’t sure what you meant by anti swales but I guess you describe that. I am just not sure about making some major changes to our land and end up doing something detrimental! I don’t want to anger the land owners around us, if I did something like that(?). I need to make our land drain better. We have thought of making berms to plant on. And also digging drainage ways to our creek/slough that drains off property. It is really the only exit for water, but problem being is some areas are lower yet and i’d cause water to run the wrong direction. We have also thought of digging ponds for water to run to. In all the things I’ve read, I do not have enough expertise to know how to solve our water issues.
 
Sharlene Swier
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We do have some hugleculture beds planned as we have lots of wood available in our five plus acres of trees that need to be cleaned out. But this is only in a small part of our property where the previous owner had a very large garden. I’m not sure how much of anything grew there as I started called it the “quagmire!” Clay wet soil. We want to put some smaller swales coming down to this area and also clean out the trenches that were already dug around to create drainage. Except it drains to pasture where we don’t want more water. We are also just creating lists of things that grow in moist or wet soils in zone 4. I’m surprised by some things that will apparently grow in wet soils like aronia, serviceberry, elderberry, rhubarb and quite a few others. So we will experiment with many of these in areas we won’t be able to drain. I also have a nice high and dry area for a garden in the back yard of the house but this is also the drain field for the septic. We removed some trees (sadly!) to open up to give more sun to the area.
 
S Bengi
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Location: Massachusetts, Zone:6/7, AHS:4, Rainfall:48in even Soil:SandyLoam pH6 Flat
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I like the ideas that you have listed.
Ponds (10ft wide, 2ft deep "ditches/swales) on contour that connects/drains to the creek
Berms (10ft wide, 2ft high mound of dirt that came from the pond/swale) on contour that is high and dry
There will be a 4ft difference between the bottom of the Swale/Pond and the top of the Berm/Hugel you can make this 6ft (3ft+3ft) if you want to.

With a 10ft wide Berm/Swale you can even get Machinery on top/bottom,
So cows would be no issues, in fact these dry berms can also act as natural rotational paddocks for your cows.
In the Pond/Swale you can grow some fish.
If you stabilize the slopes of the berm/Swale with strawbale you can also get oyster mushroom too.
The fish will also eat the mushroom compost too.

Hugelkultures (berms with buried wood) are great for planting annuals/vegetables but they are HORRIBLE for planting fruit trees. Because after 3+ years the height will go down by 80% once the wood decompose/settle. And the fruit tree roots will be exposed and it will move too much and the fruit trees really will not like and it will be weak (immune system) and easily attacked anything that comes along.

The mosquito might be a problem with a swale/pond with water, but with fish they are just food, so no mosquito problem for anyone.

You aren't importing water in water tankers/pipe onto your land so you aren't adding water to your land/neighborhood.
You are simple using the surface water that is already there and not going anywhere (swamp) to get a produce and help the environment.  
Maybe your neighbors will actually want to replicate you after seeing your increase productivity (eggs, chicken/duck meat, honey-bee, lush pasture, milk/cheese/kefir-yogurt, beef/meat, vegetable, fish, mushroom, fruits, nuts)
 
Sharlene Swier
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Thanks again! This is very helpful. Mosquitoes? Ha. They are terrible around here. Maybe we can do something to help control them if we contain water in ponds and swales instead of grassy wet areas everywhere. Thanks for responding.
 
                            
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I am finding with the wet areas of my site I need to provide a "release valve" to drain excess water in the wet times of year. swales up high to spread water around, but below them is becoming a swamp without a way for the water to surface drain
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