|My front yard in January 2015. |
The loose dirt is from the digging
of the first swale.
|This big pecan tree was my main |
motivation for digging the first swale.
The picture above, taken today, April 27, 2015 is the same shot of the front yard, and clear evidence that the swales are doing their job. They are holding most of the water long enough for it to soak into the ground.
There has been such heavy and frequent rains the past few days, though, that the water may overflow the berms. Thank goodness, if that happens there are now thriving plants below the berms to help hold the soil in place.
The area that I'm working with is close to the property line. I asked the people living there if they minded a swale on their side and they said, "Do whatever you want to do. We don't care."
|Erosion on the south side continues|
I took this picture this morning, too. This stream of running water comes from between our houses and washes out onto the neighbor's drive way. Unfortunately, a lot of the dirt is my top soil.
I got in a hurry and scattered evening primrose seed all over the front part of my yard, then I agonized about a late frost. I delayed scattering seeds between the houses until last week. Now there's no telling where they will come up, but with a heavy layer of straw down, surely some of them will sprout where I put them. That should start slowing down the water flow.
I am not a gardening expert by any means and sometimes when I look out on my new greenery, which is now a collection of ground covers, wildflowers, milkweed, onions, and some rejuvenated patches of bermuda grass, I wonder what the hell was I thinking?
But it's green and sooo beautiful compared to the brown dirt in the top photos -- and in just 4 months.
The swales (plural because I have dug a total of five) provided me with a way to water the lawn with captured rain water. Before the swales, the water was wasted because it just ran down the hill across the sidewalk and into the street.
As you can see, in heavy rains, they catch and hold the water long enough for it to soak on down into the soil.
I recently watched a Permaculture video about a community that was built in Southern California in the 1960's. On 60 acres, over 200 homes were built. Wide shallow swales are part of the landscaping in this neighborhood. And all the storm water goes into the swales and stays in the neighborhood. 45 years later, it is a lush area of green grass, thriving trees, bearing fruit trees and lush gardens. You'd never guess there are that many homes on that 60 acres. It looks like you are walking through someone's garden. They measured the moisture in the soil after a year and it was three feet down. After 2 years, the moisture went down to 9 feet and in three years, the soil was damp 18 feet below the surface.
My swales are not that wide and don't capture that much water, but I do expect they will help keep the soil moisture higher than it would normally be. I do believe they will save that big paper shell pecan tree.
|I dug this swale below a struggling crepe myrtle, then planted onions on the upper side of the swale. The onions may drown but the crepe myrtle is thriving again.|