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Swale landscaping ideas

Swale landscaping ideas


A swampy backyard is a cause for concern for many homeowners. Not only is it unattractive in many cases and hard to mow, but stagnant water is also a breeding ground for mosquitoes and other disease-spreading insects. In addition, poor drainage renders your yard unusable during rainy periods of time. There are several drainage fixes you can implement in order to turn your backyard into a place where your friends and family can spend quality time during the summer. You need to first determine what is causing water to accumulate in your yard before looking into potential solutions.

Content:
  • Harvest & Store Rainwater with Contour Swales
  • Latest News
  • That’s swale construction
  • Landscape Drainage | Lawn and Swale Grading
  • 4 Ways to Solve Landscaping Drainage Problems
  • What Is A Swale Drain For Yards And Should You Get One?
WATCH RELATED VIDEO: Landscape Design with Drainage Swale

Harvest & Store Rainwater with Contour Swales

A swale is one of those permaculture terms that probably gets thrown around to readily or inaccurately and perhaps implemented irresponsibly. Only a few years into my permaculture career, I have certainly been guilty of this, and I have distinct memories of mistakes I made with regards to both attempting to construct swales and putting them in the wrong place.

I put swales in beyond questionable locations. I was sloppy in my installation, leveling by eyeballing and ignoring contour lines. In short, I had the idea, but I lacked the execution. I missed the message on what exactly the entire swale-system accomplished and required.

For me, this never amounted to a major problem. I was working by myself with shovels and hoes, which meant the results were small and any failures easily remedied.

There are a few reasons, with regards to water, that we use swales. By putting them on contour lines and giving them level bottoms, we are able to pacify water flows that might otherwise be destructive to the landscape. In this way, we are preventing the erosion, and we are capturing nutrients, silt, and organic matter. As that water is pacified, swales also spread it out over the landscape rather than having it concentrate only in specific topographical areas, and they hold the captured water in place until it is able to soak into the soil.

Over the next several years, the landscape will become fully hydrated, which will make it drought-resistant, and the groundwater sources will begin to recharge. Swales, like any catchment, are a means of stopping water runoff, especially from roads and hard surfaces, and putting it to use rather than having it drain away.

Using swales for these reasons can prevent both floods and droughts, which make them a pretty powerful tool.

Swales are also commonly used in conjunction with other water catchments, especially dams, ponds and gray water systems. They can serve a few major functions in these combinations. By attaching swales to dams, we are able to increase the water catchment area feeding the dam, such that the swale will fill the dam as with water that would normally go elsewhere.

Swales also perform the opposite function, taking on the overflow of dams that have reached capacity and spreading and soaking the excess water across the landscape. In these overflow systems, swales allow for the specific placement of level sill spillways, which set the water level on the dams, and this allows the overflow to be passively released wherever is advantageous for design. Otherwise, spillways are simply put beside the dam wall and allow water to continue its journey downhill.

Using swales can vastly improve the water availability of dams, as well as the usefulness of overabundant water harvesting in them. Swales without trees can possibly be even more damaging than the flow of water they have pacified. In some climates, they can potentially oversaturate the landscape, leaving a designer with difficult growing conditions. Trees, however, will moderate the saturation levels, utilizing the water deep into the soil as opposed to having it collect and cause problems.

The other reason trees are vital to swale systems is that their roots stabilize the landscape, especially the berm, that loose pile of soil build on the downhill side of the swale, and the backside of the excavation. In effect, swales only make sense when they are used to cultivate trees, as in a humid climate they would probably overcharge the ground with water and in a bare, arid climate the system would likely fill, erode, and evaporate very quickly.

Swales—in permaculture terminology—are built on contour, which means they run level across the landscape. Even more importantly, they must be excavated to have level bottoms so that the water rests evenly within in them, soaking throughout the terrain rather than congregating in a particular area. The berm is on the downhill side of the swale and should be planted with both trees and groundcovers so that the soil is stabilized.

The swale also must have a level spillway so that, in times when water is overabundant, it can release safely and passively in an appropriate location without damaging the berm. Swales are not appropriate on steep landscapes. Any area with more than a fifteen-degree slope aboutLastly, swales are used to grow trees.

Even in the case of using them to extend catchments for dams or to provide an overflow system, trees should still be planted, especially on the downhill side of the swale, and it is advisable to plant more just along the uphill edge or backside nitrogen-fixers are great for this.

When used for rehydrating and reforesting, swales can more or less be left to naturally fill with sediment and organic matter as the forest grows. By the time they are full, the forest should be fully hydrated and regulating its own water needs, and the soil will have plenty of detritus from leaf-fall to prevent it from eroding and to help it with soaking up moisture. Without the trees, the swale is missing and integral part and function, not to mention that trees are equally as important to maintaining water cycles.

As I said in the beginning, I made many mistakes when attempting my first swales, but because I tend to work slowly and by hand, nothing catastrophic ever came of it. Often I was building diversion ditches the terminology gets muddle in the migration between the US and Australia , and these have slight pitches rather than level bottoms, such that they would slow and catch water like swales, even allowing some of it to soak in, but ultimately move it towards a particular destination.

But, I learned to move water around, gained a little trial-by-error experience, and continued to research, ultimately realizing the preliminary and finishing work necessary for installing them correctly.

Consequently, I thought it might be useful to others to share in this folly, discuss swales in basic but important terms, and provide some reference material for further exploration into the how it is and is not done. Feature Photo: Courtesy of Brian Boucheron. Thanks for the article here.

To add to this, many cross section diagrams you find of swales with trees show the tree either on or at the toe of the berm. In my experience, if the tree is to be managed or harvested as in a fruit tree, they are better placed a bit below the toe of the berm. I will align the anticipated drip line of the full grown fruit tree with the toe of the swale berm.

Then use shrubs, grasses and clovers to hold the berm of the swale in place. Can swales be used on a steep slope to stabilise the soil? Proposed area drops 12m over a run of approx 15m. The length of the proposed swale is over 30m. What natives and also edibles would be suitable, and what other considerations should we have in using swales as option.

Not really keen on building a second great retaining wall of China in a beautiful bush back yard. Hello Kelly, as stated in the article any slope greater than 15 degrees is unsuitable for swales. You could however plant trees on your steep slope to help stabilise it, this could be achieved by doing terraces and retaining wall type structures or by doing a net and pan configuration when planting your trees. Everyone seems to have their own opinion as to the functions and proper applications of a swale, and of the downsides.

Even Mollison himself had shifting ideas. In drylands: here, your best general water-conservation strategy for trees is to clump them into a little forest, where they can shade, wind buffer, and recycle transpired moisture with each other.

Stretching them out in lines may be a bad idea for a small to medium sized orchard or fuel, timber forest, etc. Questionable use of time in such cases. Also, soaking in more water in the wet season will wash away more N, which tends to leach in these climates especially. But, a few weeks into the dry season, the plume — unless trapped by clay or humus — is out of reach of the short roots of most annual crops. If water is held by clay or humus, then your reduced irrigation needs have little to do with the swale itself unless your swale was filling with runoff.

I think the main confusion is thinking that runoff is always a bad thing. Runoff really is only a problem in rather particular circumstances, and can often be solved fairly easily with trees, ground covers, organic matter or other soil amendments. Very rainy climates are usually quite lush and rounded landscapes, and there is already more rainfall than you can store. In arid climates that have runoff, you need to capture and pacify it, but a gabion silt field would be better suited for such a landscape.

Swales are tree growing systems and work perfectly in all climates by adjusting spacing to both climate and slope. I am looking for literature on the impact of swales or other permaculture technology on increasing soil moisture in high, arid areas or the impact on wildfire mitigation. Thank you so much for this article! You definitely saved me from a possible future issue.

I would also like to thank Geoff Lawton for giving back life, purpose, and happiness to a 64 y. With my brown thumb, I have always tended toward perennials but his sustainable permaculture ideas have taken me to a whole new level.

The man deserves a Nobel prize for his work and giving of his time! Your email address will not be published. Jonathon Engels Send an email March 31, 12 6 minutes read. Jonathon Engels The financially unfortunate combination of travel enthusiast, freelance writer, and vegan gardener, Jonathon Engels whittled and whistled himself into a life that gives him cause to continually scribble about it.

He has lived as an expat for over a decade, worked in nearly a dozen countries, and visited dozens of others in the meantime, subjecting the planet to a fiery mix of permaculture, music, and plant-based cooking. Hi, Hoping someone can help with some advice. We are in the Nilumbik area and on an acre of steep, rocky clay soil, lots of native Eucalyptus.

Thanks in advance Kelly. Sounds like your slope is too steep for swales Kelly, have you thought about terracing? Some additional things to keep in mind with swales: In drylands: here, your best general water-conservation strategy for trees is to clump them into a little forest, where they can shade, wind buffer, and recycle transpired moisture with each other.

Leave a Reply Cancel reply Your email address will not be published. Related Articles. Making a Small Wildlife Pond on a Slope 2 weeks ago. Multipurpose Pathways October 20,September 18,Living the Homesteader Dream — Part 2 February 18,Living the Homesteader Dream — Part 1 February 11,Check Also.


Latest News

Swale drains are broad, shallow ditches that can be lined with grass, vegetation, or rocks. They can also be a great addition to your landscape by looking like a dry stream bed. You can see what swales can look like further down! Mike chuckles to himself as he lowers his arms. Cameron wants to start using their outdoor area more and the first step to do that is to solve the puddling problem. Instead of using rainwater harvesting Cameron wants to put in something called a swale drain for yards. Swales are broad, shallow ditches people use to help drain their yards of excess water.

Consider including a Swale in your design. Swales appear as dry river beds on the landscape but have a buried pipe that serves as a dual.

That’s swale construction

Fertilizers, pesticides, debris and eroded soil carried in stormwater can wreak havoc on our water quality. Stormwater control features can be a beautiful addition to your landscape. Creating shallow rain gardens or shaping the earth on slopes with berms rises and swales dips , can help slow runoff from heavy rains and allow the water time to soak into the ground. Wherever possible, maintain permeable walkways, driveways and patios to allow rain to soak into the ground. Impervious surfaces within in a community, such as building roofs, sidewalks, driveways, and roads can result in a significant amount of polluted stormwater runoff entering lakes, rivers, wetlands or oceans through storm drain systems. Low impact development LID stormwater management features, such as rain gardens, swales and bioretention areas are designed to capture stormwater, filter it through vegetation and soils, and infiltrate it into the ground. Other practices such as disconnecting downspouts, installing permeable pavement and harvesting rainwater can work in conjunction with these other tools to capture and filter or temporarily store rainwater on-site to help protect our water bodies. Florida receives almost 50 inches of rainfall each year. This rain can wash exposed soil, plant materials, fertilizers, pesticides, pet waste and other pollutants into nearby water bodies. Whether a, landscape is directly on a body of water or not, it is a part of a watershed and how it is managed affects the water quality in that particular watershed.

Landscape Drainage | Lawn and Swale Grading

A rain garden is a shallow planted depression designed to hold water until it soaks into the soil. A key feature of eco-friendly landscape design, rain gardens—also known as bio-infiltration basins—are gaining credibility and converts as an important solution to stormwater runoff and pollution. Naturalized plantings, here camassia, can make a rain garden fit easily into its surroundings. Photo by: Rob Cardillo.

The landscape is lush. Trees stand along in a curious line, their roots in a raised mound of earth that curves comfortably with its surroundings.

4 Ways to Solve Landscaping Drainage Problems

None, she says, has been more fun than the iris swale she created. A swale, a pretty word for ditch or trench, carries and slows runoff water, improving its absorption into the soil. Swales can be wet or dry creeks, depending on rainfall. They can be attractive and functional elements in the landscape. Some swales are simply lined in stone. Here are her guidelines for cutting a colorful swale:.

What Is A Swale Drain For Yards And Should You Get One?

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, green infrastructure is a cost-effective, resilient approach to managing wet weather impacts and it provides many community benefits. Single-purpose gray stormwater infrastructure that is, your average, conventional piped drainage and water treatment system waterflow mechanism is designed to move urban stormwater away from built environments…however, green infrastructure reduces and treats stormwater at its source — while delivering environmental, social, and economic benefits. When rain falls on our roofs, streets, and parking lots throughout cities and their suburbs, the water cannot soak into the ground as it should. Stormwater drains through gutters, storm sewers, and other engineered collection systems and is discharged into nearby water bodies. Serpico Landscaping invites you to learn more about these green infrastructure elements that can be woven into a community for true water conservation — from small-scale elements integrated into sites or dwellings — to larger scale elements spanning entire watersheds. Water from the roof flows from this disconnected downspout into the ground through a filter of pebbles. This simple practice reroutes rooftop drainage pipes from draining rainwater into the storm sewer to draining it into rain barrels, cisterns, or permeable areas such as aerated soil or a garden or green way.

This landscape drainage swale designed by Jan Johnsen resembles a dry stream bed Since these yard drainage ideas allow storm water to sink into the soil.

Ensuring that you have a proper drainage system in place is just as important as making things look nice. A swale drain or drainage swale is a broad, shallow ditch that is used to redirect water on a property. Having a draining system in your yard is usually necessary.

When your property becomes waterlogged, it is typically the result of one major problem—improper landscape grading. And any homeowner with pooling water or a flooded lawn will tell you one thing: Poor grading results in a big, old mess! So, what can you do to solve chronic stormwater puddles or irritating drainage problems? Two effective solutions we often share with clients are grading and swales. Property saturated?

One of the things I love about the Master Gardener program is the education we receive in our monthly meetings, plus the extra educational opportunities we have.

By Conner Howard on August 14,These are classic symptoms of poor yard drainage, meaning the soil in your yard is retaining too much water. But why? There are several factors that can lead to a yard failing to vacate excess water properly. Different causes of yard drainage problems can call for different solutions and DIY approaches.

You can get much more information about rain gardens and rainwater harvesting by downloading the guide for free HERE. A rainwater harvesting system that diverts rainwater into an area where it can permeate into the ground is called a Passive Catchment System. The idea behind a passive system is to slow the rainwater, spread it out, and allow it to sink into the soil.