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Beginner’s Question About Swales

 
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Hello! I work on a property that had several swales built a few years ago. Trees were planted and there is an irrigation system. Clover has been planted on the berms as well as turnips that reseed themselves each year. Garlic chives were also planted at the bases of the trees. Other than that the swales have been left to their own devices. I’m looking for answers on how best to plant them to create a food forest that properly uses the swales design.
As I understand it the raised “hill” part is the berm and the actual swale is the “trench” part. Should I be keeping the trench free of vegetation! Clover dewberries and grass have grown in many of the trenched areas. Should I remove them or let them be?
Thanks in advance
 
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Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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The trenches should always be able to hold and move water along the swale, things growing in the swale are no problem unless they prevent the swale from doing what it is supposed to do, hold water, move it along the swale and let it soak in.
The berm is a good place to plant just about anything you want to grow ( I don't do potatoes in the berm but I do the tuber type plants in the alleys, that space between a berm and the next swale downhill is the alley).
You never want any part of a swale berm system to be barren, there should always be something growing so erosion doesn't occur.

I would let things grow and only prune them should they become unruly or create a problem.

Redhawk
 
Jessica Chambers
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Thank you very much for you reply. What about the trenched area that has only mulch Present with no vegetation growing will that be ok?
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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hugelkultur dog forest garden duck fish fungi hunting books chicken writing homestead
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Yes that will be fine, the purpose of the swale (trench is to hold water till it soaks into the soil, mulch keeps the soil covered and that and the water will start a fungal network of hyphae and any seeds that fall in the trench will populate that space.

 
Jessica Chambers
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Thanks!
 
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