swales in an olive grove

Discussion in 'Designing, building, making and powering your life' started by japhy, Mar 11, 2009.

  1. japhy

    japhy Junior Member

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    Hi, I'm quite new at this so would appreciate some advice. I'm living in Portugal and have begun to incorporate permaculture methods into an already existing orchard. It's olives and mixed fruit, built on a semi-steep slope- with a heavy clay soil. Given the water situation here, I'd like to put swales in - but wondered if...(a) this is a good idea for trees such as olives, built not to need much water? And (b) how to put these in. My idea is to dig them between the rows of trees across the hill, fitting to contour of course. But once i've dug the swale, do I put stone or loam in the bottom? Do I cover them over?
     
  2. trimnut2

    trimnut2 Junior Member

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    Re: swales in an olive grove

    Be wary of putting swales into an established orchard. In your case for these reasons:
    With an established orchard it is likely that you may have good moisture retention rates already. Simple question: "Is there a significant water loss off the site most years?" With your soil type perhaps there is a simple answer.
    In soil profile/landscape with a semi-steep slope, clay and olives it is likely that the olives have adjusted their root profiles to suit the conditions. Changing the moisture profile in that situation is probably unwise. If you wish to increase productivity and increase moisture retention discreet use of slashed green manures, compost and mulching would probably be more productive. And be patient most trees take a few years to respond to TLC.
     
  3. bazman

    bazman Junior Member

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    Re: swales in an olive grove

    One idea is to swale above and/or below the orchard, run this overflow water into a dam and feed back into the trees via drippers.

    Because you also might be damaging tree roots by digging you could try using square hay bales instead laid on contour, or old logs, rocks or stone, anything to slow the flow of water and capture moving organic matter. Think of it as any way to slow surface water moving through your landscape.

    Your best bet is to grow a legume of some sort in and on your swale.
     
  4. japhy

    japhy Junior Member

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    Re: swales in an olive grove

    Thanks a lot you guys - sound advice. I shall report back on progress.
     
  5. Burra Maluca

    Burra Maluca Junior Member

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    Re: swales in an olive grove

    There seem to be quite a few of us here in Portugal now! Welcome to the forum!

    We've been trying to grow legumes here but the only one we've had any real success with is lupins. Your mileage may vary, but if you have trouble getting anything else established, try lupins.

    Did you see the post by Our Eden in the training section? They are running a permaculture design course at the end of the month. I'm not able to go unfortunately, but it might be worth getting in touch with them anyway to compare notes.
     

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