[permaculture] Introduction and a question about Swales

Dieter Brand diebrand at yahoo.com
Mon Dec 29 06:31:57 EST 2008

I don’t have any experience with the type of conditions you describe; however, I have to cope with extreme dry and hot conditions during the summer.  My overall rainfall is probably above yours, but in a normal year there is zero rainfall from May trough September with temperatures hitting the 100 F mark in the July/August period.
In the beginning, I did some earthworks but soon switched to zero soil disturbance.  We have a hillside property with clay soil.  Most of the topsoil washed away due to plowing by previous owners.  Any soil disturbance (making swales, ponds, terraces, raised beds, waffle beds, etc. or plowing) will turn up pure clay from the subsoil and burry the little subsoil there is.  The clay soil will crack in the sun and dry out rapidly.  Dams made for artificial lakes will often stay barren for ten years without any vegetation.  The situation may be different on sandy soil.
My strategy has been to improve the soil by keeping it covered at all times with vegetation and/or mulch, practicing zero soil disturbance and returning as much organic matter as possible to the soil surface.  A soil covered by vegetation (e.g., grass sod) will allow water to penetrate and prevent runoffs even on hillsides. A soil with good structure and high organic content can store an enormous amount of water for a very long time.  Therefore, rather than turning part of my land into swales or artificial lakes that dry out before it gets really dry in the summer, I prefer to see my entire land as one big water reservoir. The more I improve the soil the more water it will be able to store.  In the garden, I have been able to reduce irrigation by about 80% in the last 5 years.
Dieter Brand

--- On Sun, 12/28/08, Jeff Hine <jhi at post.com> wrote:

From: Jeff Hine <jhi at post.com>
Subject: [permaculture] Introduction and a question about Swales
To: permaculture at lists.ibiblio.org
Date: Sunday, December 28, 2008, 10:14 PM

Hi, I am fairly new to the idea of permaculture. I have not taken the 
course or read the principal books on the subject. (money problems) 
Nevertheless, I have been pouring over everything I can find on the net 
and watching various youtube videos. And of course I am blown away by 
the work that you all are doing. I feel like I have been standing on the 
wrong side of the fence for 25 years of my working career and didn't 
even know it for 24. I want over asap!

I live in an area that is considered mountain desert. We receive on the 
average 16 inches of precipitation per year with nearly all of it locked 
up in snow during December, January, and February. I keep trying to 
figure out what permaculture would look like here. I try to imagine how 
to use swales to hold onto as much moisture as possible. I know that 
even when temperatures are cold a lot of snow is lost to evaporation, 
you can see it happen. And then there is wind blowing that moves it 
around. Would swales help in a climate like this? And to be specific 
about my question, Geoff Lawton describes the swales that they put in 
Jordan. He says in the video that the land is dead flat and later says 
the swales were put in on contour. What does it mean to put swales on 
contour on a flat piece of land? Can you treat a building as a hill and 
use that as the contour point? Also, if you know of any resources online 
dealing with geography such as where I live could you point me in that 

I feel like I live in a very challenging landscape, yet I know that all 
areas are suitable for permaculture design. I am learning and grateful 
for all the folks on this list.


Be Yourself @ mail.com!
Choose From 200+ Email Addresses
Get a Free Account at www.mail.com

permaculture mailing list
permaculture at lists.ibiblio.org
Subscribe or unsubscribe here:
Google command to search archives:
site:http://lists.ibiblio.org/pipermail/permaculture searchstring


More information about the permaculture mailing list