Friday, November 20, 2009

Making a Swale

We get a fair bit of rain in winter, though little from late spring to late autumn these days. Over the past 10 years the average yearly rainfall has been dropping and it's likely to get worse throughout southern inland Australia. Because of the seriousness of this, and because water is becoming increasingly precious, I decided it time to cut a swale across our 1/4 acre plot for the purposes of harvesting winter water for summer use.

The first thing I did was take my 2m level stick and draw a line across the chosen contour.

I hired Brian and his mini excavator to help break our hard and poor soil, which will soon be full of worms and microbes and rich for growing.

Brian's work was pretty delicate. We baked in the intense sun, Meg brought out cups of our rain water with sliced lemon and spearmint from the garden. This all took place yesterday.

Today, Meg and I started to remove the excess rocky clay and fine tune the swale.

We threw the soil (clay and rock) onto our old mattress springs which we placed over one of the compost bays. We sorted out the rocks, pulled out weeds and added vegetable waste, woodchips, horse shit and water to the sifted clay in a lasagna style compost.

I then had some top soil brought in and Meg and I got to work to spread it out.

A little more fine tuning with the level stick and a rake.

Then tested the level again, this time with water.

And found that the swale works. Yippee! Now for heavy mulching on either side of the swale – stay tuned.

The whole idea of a swale is for winter rains to collect along it and slowly absorb into the ground instead of draining downhill and away from the produce area. Heavy mulching on both sides preserves the moisture underground which in turn allows for worms, microbes, plants and trees to get established and thrive.

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