Tag Archives: swales

farm work party: brambles & swales


Here on the farm we have a back field that has pretty much been left to its own devices. Aside from some digging work that Chris put in to help drain the area, the field really isn’t being used for anything yet (other than the access point to our farm for local coyotes). Of course, given that it makes up a decent portion of our 2.5 acres, we’d like to make better use of it so we assigned some less-than-fun jobs to some eager friends at our work party.

Chris and some of his classmates from his gardening course took up the prickly challenge of cutting down overgrown blackberry brambles. They worked their way through one whole length of the field. We can see our fence now! Thank for taking on the scratches for us guys – it looks great!

Later in the day, Ryan and Travis began work on a system of swales in the field. Because our land is SO wet, we have to practice permaculture methods that make the most of our water runoff while doing what we can to dry out areas for planting. A swale is a low tract of land that catches water, holds water and slowly disseminates it into raised mounds of earth between it and the next swale. It can be used for both dry lands (storing water) and wetlands like ours (organizing and directing water rather than letting it settle everywhere). Our hope is that by building swales across our back field, we’ll be able to create a successful growing area (as opposed to it existing as the marshy land it is now).

Read about the basics of swales on wikipedia or check out this more detailed blog post on a swale-building project in Australia. I’m posting one of their photos below because it provides a great visual of what swales should look like. We plan on planting things on the raised mounds between the swales – plants that will hopefully flourish in a way that they never would if we planted them directly into the un-swaled land.