swales in the fruit orchard

Discussion in 'Planting, growing, nurturing Plants' started by sarita, Mar 5, 2003.

  1. sarita

    sarita New Member

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    hello everyone,
    could you tell me about swales. does one plant a fruit tree on the top of the mound, below the mound or in the crevice above the mound? does it depend on the tree? does it depend on the shape of the mound and the shape of the groove above it? does a swale run exactly on the contour and therefore there is no runoff? Or is the main aim to direct the water gently down the hill? Maybe into a pond? Thanks for your help.
    Sarita ???
     
  2. Jeff Nugent

    Jeff Nugent Junior Member

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    Hi Sarita,
    It's hard to give a specific answer without knowing your climatic and soil details.
    Basically swales are placed strictly on contour, otherwise they become drains.
    Their purpose is to slow run-off water and allow it to sink into the ground. This reduces run-off, maximising water stored in the ground and provides a catchment for any silt that did run down. How big and how frequent depend on the highest rainfalls ever and the soil type.
    [​IMG]
    Here is a swale we built in Kenya a week old, first rain.
    If you get many rain events like that, planting fruit trees in the bottom will not be viable. In a lot of soil profiles the swale goes right to the clay pan so there is no way you will get fruit trees to grow there either. The logical place for fruit trees is on top of the swale and\or slightly down hill from it. Which one works best depends upon your soil profile and many other variables. In my conditions in WA I find that plants respond well to the new earth heaped up and that they have an easy path into the banks. I treat the tops of the swales as my prime planting places.
    In the Kenya site the soil is very deep volcanic loam and the climate is highland-tropical, semi-arid. Scenes like the one above may occur 10 times a year but within a day or two the water has sunk into the soil. Here we plant into the swales as our first place to establish trees.
    [​IMG]
    The Growth rate is amazing.
    A few months later:
    [​IMG]
    The trees in the swales are thriving and the swale banks are protected by pigeon pea which is a first crop and pioneer. In Kenya the pigeon pea provides the three F's: Food, Fodder, Firewood. It provides it quickly and is semi-perennial (more product, less work, greater soil stability).

    Hope this helps.

    Information on the Ngare Ndare Dryland Restoration Project in Kenya can be found by clicking here.
     

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