Category: Swales

Mini Swales in an Urban Backyard

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The term “swale” is often used by Permaculture people when designing large earth work constructions but it’s very rarely spoken of in an urban setting. Swales are most often discussed among permaculture people when designing large earthwork constructions – not something you would find in most people’s backyards. However, these techniques can be used just as effectively in an urban setting to keep your garden plants alive throughout the hot […]

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Found-Object Garden Design at The Farm Inn in Southern Belize

To The Farm Inn

Something that has thoroughly impressed Kevin during our six weeks at The Farm Inn in the southern depths of Belize, where a paved highway has only just made it, is that we are only using things that are already on the property. When I hear him excitedly describe his concept of permaculture—what we, my wife Emma and I, are doing—to people, he always mentions this fact. Over the last few […]

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5 Fun and Fruitful Techniques for Small-Scale Earthworks

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I’ve spent most of the last two years volunteering on farms throughout Central and South America, as well as a three-month sojourn through Spain, and in that time, I’ve learned a ton from the people I’ve worked with and, I like to think, shared a lot as well. I’ve been introduced to trees and plants I’d never encountered before. I’ve pruned and harvested in new ways. I’ve played with different […]

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Groundwater Re-charging

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It’s a rainy Monsoon day. Today, it’s water, water everywhere, but soon there will not be a drop to drink. Think forward to April & May. Dry times ahead. And for some, water problems could come as early as February & March. Every monsoon, Goa receives around 3000mm of Monsoon rainwater. That’s a lot. In fact, it’s plenty, and more. So why are we faced with dwindling water tables, empty […]

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Swale Calculator Spacing Tool

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Douglas Barnes of permaculturereflections, who is a sustainable designer from the countryside in Tweed Ontario, has created a great tool that can be used to help with Swale implementation. This calculator, located on his website here, addresses Swale spacing that has been a perennial question in Permaculture. This calculator turns the problem on its head and gives you the best estimate for spacing based on swale size. Why calculate spacing? […]

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Rapidly-Cut Swales with Tractor Blade

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We are making early progress on our 320-acre Missouri permaculture-farm project (Jordan Rubin’s Heal the Planet Farm). Last fall, a local dozer operator was brought in to dig the first swales. It was a small dozer but it did a respectable job and did the work in a relatively short period of time compared to an excavator. See the blog post with video here. Before we brought the dozer back […]

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Comparing the Great Wall of China’s Contour Structure with That of a Water Harvesting System

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A permaculture enthusiast may want to inquire: how do the structures of both the Great Wall of China and Water Harvesting System relate A Brief history of the Great Wall Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1987, the Great Wall of China has always been the most visible symbol of power and influence of the past Chinese Empires. Initially built by Emperor Qin Shi Huang (c.259-210 B.C.) in […]

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How to Build a Swale on Contour Successfully

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Swales are amongst my favorite permaculture projects. Though they can be laborious, especially for a shovel and pick fellow like me, they show results quickly and look amazing, texturing the landscape with both purpose and beauty. They are easy to explain: Everyone understands the concept of plants needing water. Swales are also perfect for those of us wanting to build no-dig garden beds, as digging the (swale) paths provides the […]

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Understanding Water Part 2: Working with Flow

Copyright Ingrid Pullen Photography In my previous article, we explored how the basic principle of water is that of flow, and so in order to work well with water it is important to be aware of what the flow is and where it is going. On a practical level, this involves some basic observation and a wealth of techniques which can be used to help utilise water to the advantage […]

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Swales in North Texas Take on 2.5 inches of Rain and Perform Perfectly

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In this video, Jack Spirko, shows just how effective good Permaculture Earthworks are in capturing 26,000 Gallons of water from a “barn burner of a storm”. This morning we got 3 hours of pouring rain. Then this afternoon we got hit with close to an inch in less than 30 minutes, and it totally filled the swales and overflowed them all. To drive home how passive this water system is, […]

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Grey Water and Silt Pond Project – Parts 1 and 2

Part One Phil Williams of takes you through a two-part video of him installing a grey water and silt pond project he has. He explains some of the issues and he talks through resolutions to making it work. Phil was a conventional landscape contractor and designer for twelve years. He learned quite a bit about how to run equipment and how to manage a job, but the lack of sustainability […]

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Contour Beds Peru

The ancient Inca also utilised contour patterning in their agriculture. This article will describe the process we took to create kitchen garden contour beds in the Sacred Valley Peru. Contour beds are annual and/or perennial vegetable garden beds that conform to the natural pattern of the landscape. Being on contour means that the paths and beds themselves are level and follow the lay of the land. Not only does this […]

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