Category: Swales

Urban Swales

rob avis swales feat

Last year, we did a series of videos looking at the swale systems on our property and demonstration site. Part one looks at how we’ve combined the featuress of a Hügelkultur system, a wicking bed, and swales to nourish a productive garden that requires very little additional irrigation: Urban Swales Part 1: Weeping Tile & Mulched Pathways This second video in the urban swales series looks at permaculture design with […]

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Morocco Project Update


The earthworks have progressed nicely and below is a series of photos of when we were installing the earthworks and after the first decent rains of the season. Keeping in mind the site receives 250mm of rain per year and like a lot of dry-lands come’s in about 3 events in mid-winter.

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Bunyip Water Level: Measure Contour Lines & Swales

Neal Gist Feat

To have professional surveyors map our contour lines was going to cost thousands of dollars and many we spoke to outright refused because of the number of trees and acreage. The estimates we did receive were not frequent in elevational increments – one even came in at “every 60 feet!” So we ended up hiring a company only for marking our property boundaries. To map the inner swales and contour […]

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Mini Swales in an Urban Backyard


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

Keyhole Hugelkultur - feat

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


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


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


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


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


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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