Swales distance around estblished trees

Discussion in 'Put Your Questions to the Experts!' started by Joshua Parke, May 9, 2016.

  1. Joshua Parke

    Joshua Parke New Member

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    I'm going to be installing a small swaled system on a 2.5 acre property. Either two or three swales, it depends on if I fudge the uppermost swale or not. The uppermost swale needs to go by some established trees. These trees are roughly between 30-40' tall, and the canopy's touch. There are two options for swale placement, either between the trees, where there are two or three trees about 15-20' apart, so the swale would go in-between them. which would be on contour. Or, I can go below all the trees about 10-15', and fudge the swale a little bit to get the bottom level. If I fudged it a little, then it will be deeper on one end and shallower on the other so that I can keep the bottom level so that it fills with water evenly.

    The catchement is around 80 acres, and I would like to make the swales quite large...possibly up to 9' wide and 3' deep. How can I install this swale through or below these trees? I recall a video of Geoff Lawton having a swale installed where they had to go above a tree a little bit because it was in the contour path, and that swale was still quite close to the tree. I'm at a loss here and don't know what to do. And those are the only options for this swale placement, otherwise the water will follow down an erosion gully and off the property.
     
  2. songbird

    songbird Senior Member

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    Joshua, different tree species have different tolerances
    for soil disturbance and the changes in water and also
    how much area the root system takes up... so this is
    a pretty hard thing to say for certain at a distance.

    the general rule of thumb is that a tree's root system
    extends about to where the drip line for the canopy
    reaches... to the extent you disturb the soil and moisture
    levels in that area you can potentially kill the tree.

    but like i said up top, each tree species can differ so
    the rule of thumb may not apply...

    is it a monocultural tree planting? or if there aren't that
    many different trees there perhaps you can have them
    identified (arborist or university sort of person). I know
    there are some permies around Santa Fe so perhaps you
    can find someone via a local group? keep looking around. :)
     
  3. 9anda1f

    9anda1f Administrator Staff Member

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    Why is it necessary for a swale to be contiguous? I might merely break the continuity of the swale at an appropriate distance from the tree in question, then resume it on the other side.
     
  4. Joshua Parke

    Joshua Parke New Member

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    Thanks for the thoughtful input. I arrived at the location today to stake out the swales. I don't know what species of trees they are, but I found a solution. I looked over the site again this morning and realized that going below the trees was not possible, because it puts the back of the swale very close to the beginning of an erosion gully, and looking at the ground it is visible that it is a little unstable and it could give way with enough water pressure finding its way through the cracks.

    I staked out the swale above the trees right up against the fence line and will just go narrower there to not disturb too many roots, and then widen it back out on either side of the trees...pictures would help. :) And that same spot is where water collects on the road to end up down the erosion gully through the property, so I may widen that spot towards the road and make it a little deeper than the rest of the swale simply to collect silt and what not. But I'll need to wait and decide on that, which can easily be done at a later date.
     
  5. bpl

    bpl New Member

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    I have a similar issue, but on a smaller scale. 15' Macadamia tree and a 2' wide X 1' deep swale on contour (under construction). The drip line of the tree meets the swale on the "up hill" side of the swale.. in truth, the tree is actually on the contour. I've considered breaking the swale at that point, and installing a shorter lower swale below the first swale.. with a spillway from the first swale feeding into it.
    Brett
     

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