I’ve been digging a swale across the back of my shed for about 6 months now. We first started it as a small diversion ditch to direct rainwater runoff away from the shed, as it would flow under the rear wall and wet everything on the dirt floor.
Then we had the pigs in a pen above the ditch, and I really didn’t want to waste the nutrient that was flowing downhill every time it rained. Over time, I dug the swale deeper and wider, and brought it back closer to level so it would hold water for longer and hydrate the soil around it.
Of course, I finished digging it and took quite a while to do anything more. Sometimes life gets in the way!
In the photo below, you can see how much the weeds had started to take over. You can also seed the comfrey I planted along the bottom edge of the pig pen, both to catch nutrients and as a feed supplement (and compost supplement when we don’t have pigs).
I then had a brainwave and decided to dig a banana circle at the lower end of the swale, where the excess water flows out of it. It’s basically just a big round hole, with the swale feeding in water on one side and an overflow point on the other side. I dumped some chopped up palm trunks in the pit, which should absorb plenty of water and release it slowly to surrounding plants. I’ll keep piling compostable materials (leaves, garden waste, etc) into the pit to keep up the nutrient supply to the bananas.
I finally got the time last weekend to properly mulch the swale. I had let it go too long, and it was a huge job to pull out all the grass and cut down the weeds, but a nice thick mulch layer will hopefully stop them from growing back. In this photo you can see a mango tree and sweet potato vine. I’ve also planted a coffee tree, some loquats, taro, and banana plants. There’s space for a few more fruit trees, and I’d also like to plant some lemongrass into the swale to use as a future mulch.
The mulch is made up of long grass from around the fences and a native grass plant (pennisetum alopecuroides, I think?) that I’ve been trimming back recently. I spread all the trimmings across the ground in the chicken run, and let the chickens scratch it over for a couple of weeks. Hopefully they picked out all the seeds so I won’t get weeds sprouting. It dried out like hay, and had a lot of chicken manure added to it. Then I raked it all up and spread it on the swale.
After just a few days, the bananas are already looking a lot happier! It looks much neater, too.
I’ve got six banana plants growing now and am looking forward to a harvest, hopefully towards the end of this year or early next year. I’m very envious of Ally and Rich’s huge bunch of bananas!