Native peanut tree planted 2 years ago
I started to dig a long, shallow trench by hand yesterday, with a mattock and rake. While it's incredibly slow and hard work, there is little chance for mistakes to be made. I gently chisel away at the earth until a shelf is formed to catch the rainwater when it does arrive. It's the basic cut and fill principal, but the shape of the swale has to run exactly on contour, or it will drain water down hill again, rather than capture and hold it - which is what we're aiming for.
This is just the first swale I've dug for this area...I plan at least two more.
North facing slope receives full sun - picture taken in AM
Above, is what the slope looks like without swales. It gives perfect drainage, which means a lot of "constant" water is required to keep this area moist - not present at the moment. The poor plants I've been attempting to grow, always struggle during this period. With the implementation of regular swales down the slope however, it will prolong the natural irrigation it does receive with each rain event.
The swale plan is this..
Earthworks are carbon friendly, as they're dug by hand
It may take a while to dig by hand, but the best part is free labour with no associated fuel costs. Unless food counts - but I was planning on eating anyway. I've noticed the cut and fill on contour, makes for navigating the slopes a lot easier too. This will be very handy the older we get! David has already killed two domestic mowers in six years, cutting the grass on these unforgiving inclines. Hopefully we'll be able to put in more trees (this is our bush-tucker area) so the canopy shade will gradually out-compete the grass.
One of the complimentary ideas with swales is planting trees below them, so they'll be fed nutrients and watered from the swale above. It's kind of like an irrigation pipe made out of sculpted earth. No plastic hoses or extra water tanks required. That makes my bank account, much happier!
It just goes to show that even when you do have slopes, they can be tamed. Not only is it good for the owners, but it's also sensible land management - giving nature a helping hand along the way. All you need is some hand tools, a basic plan and a little (okay, a lot!) of sweat.