Swales- A tree planting Mound

Discussion in 'Planting, growing, nurturing Plants' started by cdoug_e, Apr 12, 2010.

  1. cdoug_e

    cdoug_e Junior Member

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    Hello all,
    I am teaching permaculture with Scott Pittman of Permaculture.org at Maharishi University of Management. I was showing a movie today about a swale project I did in Portugal. I had the trees planted on top of the mound and he asked why. He always plants at the toe of the mound. Am I missing something in the drawings and everything else I have seen of Geoff's work and even Darren's swales in Vietnam. I have never seen it another way. Is this more of a drylands technique or ????? He said Bill said to never plant on the top of the mound because if you have to re-level the top you can't because of the trees. I just thought altering the top would be done with adding compost and organic matter or if there was a problem with the freeboard you would just drop the spillway. Confused, any thoughts?
    Cheers from Iowa
     
  2. sweetpea

    sweetpea Junior Member

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    cdoug, Sepp Holzer always plants at the top of the mounds because it creates warm pockets that a mound alone can't do. and their roots help stabilize them from erosion. when the trees pull up the moisture from deep in the ground, they let off humidity that will help the plants all around it. If you are really working with mounds, why would you ever level them? check out YouTube for Sepp Holzer's fruit trees on mounds, he's done it for 40 years and swears by it.
     
  3. sweetpea

    sweetpea Junior Member

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    Nope, I'm totally wrong, but of course I can't edit that last post! Holzer puts the trees in the low spots between mounds. I must have looked at those videos a dozen times! So never mind my last post. His mounds look really high and he does them with a bulldozer, so they create the warm pockets and the trees benefit from that. So the humidity coming off the trees is closer to the plants on the mounds, and so they better access. I still can't imagine leveling off a mound that took so long to build, tho, now that I'm doing it the shovel and pick way... :)

    Here's a diagram:

    https://4.bp.blogspot.com/_f4ch8yJ1...UYfE/s320/Holzer+Raised+Bed+-Diagram+-LRG.JPG
     
  4. purplepear

    purplepear Junior Member

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    For me the planting appear where the plant dictates and I think the Green the desert backs this. Accacias are planted above the swale to provide shade and leaf matter for fertility.
    In the swale is left clear (and uncompacted) to allow for penetration of the water.
    Below the swale is where the moisture is available to support the productive trees.
     
  5. Dreamie

    Dreamie Junior Member

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    I cannot see someone wanting to remove a mound once it is built as that would involve destroying the embedded energy that exists in both the mound and the swale and would impact the ecosystem of the area surrounding it as well.

    Where to plant the tree depends on the requirements of the tree as to wether it is planted in the swale or on the mound. The swale is designed as water and energy storage and dissipation areas therefore it is likely to be wet and full of compost / decomposing matter. Plants that benefit from more moisture and compost would be planted in the swale and drier plants would be on the mound. Also plants that provide nutrients to others would be on top of the mounds such as tagaste that provides foliage and shade to the swale.
     
  6. If the swale/mound/conture is doing double duty as a water diverter, eg. to a dam, then it will probably need leveling attention from time to time.




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    “The increasing shrillness of the message about global warming has about it a certain messianic flavour usually associated with religious faith rather than empirical or scientific knowledge”

    Quote via the book, “The Climate Caper” by Garth Paltridge. Atmospheric physicist and a former Chief Research Scientist with CSIRO Division of Atmospheric Research
     
  7. alfamick

    alfamick Junior Member

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    sweatpea, that diagram appeared really small - but it looks like Sepp has the trees right in the low point of the swale. Perhaps that works in different climatic conditions? But I've always had the trees either up on the berm (e.g. large NFT's) or on the low side of the swale (most fruit trees).
     
  8. sweetpea

    sweetpea Junior Member

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    alfamick, yes, the trees are in the dale part of the hill and dale, I corrected that back there. But I have to keep reminding myself that Holzer is in the Alps and is creating a temperate climate there. So we all need to think of our summer temps and would we be making it too hot to do it like he's doing it?


    I am already in a temperate climate, and adding more heat isn't really what a temperate climate needs. So I think I can use the occasional hill or swale for holding water, and controlling my hillside, but I can use plants to create windbreaks, which creates a forest-type setting. and, thank heaven, something I don't need a bulldozer for! :)

    I tried a half hugel in one row, and spent a lot of time lugging heavy clay soil and at least a foot thick of mowed weed mulch, only to have a raccoon or skunk come through and dig it all out looking for slugs, I think. So I have to keep putting my "hugels" back and they don't really get a chance to gel together and act like a large compost pile. Another plan thwarted!

    So I still do mulch and compost in layers thickly, and I'm working on windbreaks.
     

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