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on contour swales & berms on flat flat land

Posted by bashazaborski 6 b Canada (My Page) on
Mon, Apr 1, 13 at 14:48

Does anyone have advice on creating a series of on contour swales and berms on flat poorly draining clay soil. I am envisioning alternating widely spaced bands of wetland and raised beds. Half the property (total size 13 acres) is woodland with hundreds of fallen emerald ash borer killed trees, perfect hugel culture fodder to be incorporated in the berms. The other half is old field (ploughed 50 years ago) covered in wild bushes. A 100x100 ft pond 8 ft deep is centered at the north end of the field. The old field is where I'd like to do the swaling and berming because there is sun and a water source. The land tilts ever so slightly - high point to the northwest and low point to the southeast. The woodland is to the north. On the south end is a narrow lovely marshland created by a berm to the south that prevents drainage into the municipal ditch. They keep cleaning out the ditch and building up the berm. I love that marsh. How deep should the swales be and how wide? Deep and narrow or shallow and wide? How high and wide the berms? Any advice? How about advice on guilds to plant? Woodland trees are 80 - 100 year black and white oaks, shag bark hickories, maples, ash are all dead, some elms, some linden, some poplar. Field is mostly assorted dogwood bushes, roses, wild grapes, eastern red cedar, hawthorn, ash stump sprouts, with young oaks starting. Any thoughts are welcome.

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: on contour swales & berms on flat flat land

not sure i got this right?

but it sounds like you may not need swales, they are for helping water into the soil.

berms yes but maybe not necessarily across the contours to trap water again working like a swale, but to increase drainage for you gardens and food trees etc.

the living oaks sound happy enough so leave them be, the aspect of the land also sounds good, a southern aspect.


Here is a link that might be useful: lens bale garden

RE: on contour swales & berms on flat flat land

My idea was to create swales to generate soil to use to create an accompanying berm on which to plant. (ie like "pit and mound"). When the pond was dug, all the dirt was piled along the eastern edge of the property and created a laneway that is some 2 ft above grade. It is well drained and growth is lush compared to soil on natural grade. I thought to recreate this throughout the field for planting in a way that doesn't require purchasing soil. The swales would be like that marsh the municipality has created by cleaning the ditch and making a berm with the material cleaned out of the ditch. Your straw bale garden would be great on top of the berms. The way the land is now, it would be impossible to grow food crops other than elderberry, wild wetland flowers for honey, cattail etc. The soil is just too wet and unworkable. I would like to keep the water on the land to have those wetland places. All the native plants are right there. I think I just have to take the plunge and try one swale and one berm to see what happens. Your recipe for a straw bale garden on top of the new berm would be just the ticket to condition that clay.

RE: on contour swales & berms on flat flat land

Check out geofflawton's earthworks course, I've just signed up for his Pdc. Perhaps I'll be able to answer this question at the end of the course.

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