Food forest swales got full

Written by Stephan Schwab on February 25, 2020

By late December we finally got real rainfall over a few days. It was enough to really fill up our first attempt at creating a food forest based on swales. With the rainfall before I thought the swales were too deep but the reality after the rain proved me wrong.

The following pictures are from December 21st.

While the far end didn’t really fill up - I thought I should not dig deeper - this end spilled over. Maybe during summer when the surface of the swale is dry enough I take the backhoe in there and make the far end a bit deeper. It might not be dry enough, which would be good, and I will leave it as it is.

I have to admit these swales were dug by looking at the terrain from the seat of the backhoe. I didn’t use any A-level or laser level to really design them as the book says. It’s an experiment and the first try at this. During our first year here we need to do so many things all at once that learning fast is more important than doing it right.

As the water was still flowing along the sloped areas as I took the pictures I noticed an opportunity and quickly dug manually this little channel. It feeds the water from the path into the swale and avoids erosion.

This is the highest area. The swale at the far end will not fill but feeds the lower end. That’s ok.

It was getting dark already as I took this picture. You can see to the left that the second swale also got pretty full.

On December 29th the water level had dropped a bit.

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