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Swales as ditches for irrigation

 
Posts: 16
Location: Middletown, CA
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I want to set up a gravity fed passive irrigation system on my newly rented grow space by flooding swale ditches so that the berm veggies will always have water.  I would divert water from a perennial spring uphill of the site, which is in an old hayfield with a decent slope to it, to the first swale, which would fill, then the spillway flow would be directed into the second swale, so that I almost create a small stream that doesn’t flow very fast, going downhill from swale to swale and filling them all.  I would use rocks where the spillways flow into the next swale; the only spots where water should be actually flowing and the only spots with erosion potential.  I might try to terminate the waterflow in a pond at the bottom of the hayfield.  I am asking those with more experience than I: is this feasible or am I overlooking something stupid?

I’ll be installing swales regardless as the unusually heavy rains of last winter have done some damage on the slope.

Is there a better way to irrigate without having to set up drip lines or soaker hoses or install tanks to hold water?
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A poorly drawn photo of the basic plan.
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The site.
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Yellow is roughly where the spring is. Blue is where I intend to move the water. Black are scribbled berms, and green represents the vegetation on the downhill side of the water.
 
pollinator
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Location: East tn
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Sounds perfect.

Only advice would be have your mulch, straw, seeds on hand and ready to go and choose your timing as best you can to ensure heavy rains dont arrive while distrubed soil is bare.
 
Dillon Langer
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J Davis wrote:Sounds perfect.

Only advice would be have your mulch, straw, seeds on hand and ready to go and choose your timing as best you can to ensure heavy rains dont arrive while distrubed soil is bare.




Thank you, I hope it’ll work out but it seems noothing ever does as I think it will.  Just gotta get digging before the heavy November rains hit.
 
master pollinator
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If you want the swales to act as swales and not ditches, and have more control over the water, you might consider digging them on contour and installing swivel pipes so that when you want to move the water downhill instead of holding it, you can swivel the pipes.  At minute 4:00 in this video  
 
J Davis
pollinator
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If you are tight on timing, maybe do one small one so you can validate your method and results before putting an entire slope at risk of erosion.

Many of the factors will be local. Soil, rain, cover crops, etc. So even researching and prepping will only mitigate some risk. Much risk will remain until you have tested your method onsite.

Permie methodology is observe, act small, observe, expand scale.

Especially important when dealing with potential erosion on sigilnificant slope.

That said, sound idea. A bit jealous on your water supply :)
 
Dillon Langer
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Tyler Ludens wrote: If you want the swales to act as swales and not ditches, and have more control over the water, you might consider digging them on contour and installing swivel pipes so that when you want to move the water downhill instead of holding it, you can swivel the pipes.  At minute 4:00 in this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dcgHvYWLs-Q&t=80s



I was planning to dig them so that they are level yes, and that’s clever with the pipe there in the video.  Control in rainy months would be helpful and that would be easy to install if I did it before the whole thing was made.  Thank you!
 
Dillon Langer
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J Davis wrote:If you are tight on timing, maybe do one small one so you can validate your method and results before putting an entire slope at risk of erosion.

Many of the factors will be local. Soil, rain, cover crops, etc. So even researching and prepping will only mitigate some risk. Much risk will remain until you have tested your method onsite.

Permie methodology is observe, act small, observe, expand scale.

Especially important when dealing with potential erosion on sigilnificant slope.

That said, sound idea. A bit jealous on your water supply :)



I’m not that concerned about erosion at this point.  There are already some bare spots behind me in the picture, and the area I’d be digging is less than 3/4 of an acre to begin with.  But I will do my best to retain what soil there is to begin with.  Thanks again!
 
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I have a very similar setup. It is pasture so i did not use rocks. 3 swales, each over flow when full and go to next swale. The bottom swale is where it gets interesting. That one is designed to move water to one side. When full it travels under a road via a culvert. At that point the water goes onto a terrace on its way to a pond.

The terrace should be a tree growing machine. The swales keep my grass irrigated. I dont have access to springs though.

I may be able to get a pic that shows the 3 swales in one shot. I'll post it tomorrow.
 
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