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Irrigation Techniques

Anonymous Ole Prepper


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SHTF-It's Swale!

No.... That's not a typo! :). I meant to say Swale, not swell. :)
A Swale is basically, a self-watering field, garden, or orchard bed.
Swales are the answer to garden and small-scale farm watering, for what I call, pre SHTF (Stuff Hit The Fan), and for post SHTF!
Pre SHTF, is any time, before a complete breakdown of civilization as we know it. Post SHTF is during and after a complete breakdown of civilization, as we know it.
Many have been living, in their own, personal SHTF scenarios, for many years already! These personal SHTF scenarios are alarming, and becoming more frequent, for more people, every day!
We need to utilize every resource available we can, even before post SHTF! Swales can be one of those resources! And they are free! The only cost is 'elbow grease'!
Swales are a conservative, and an economic way, to garden, and small-scale farm now, pre SHTF. Post SHTF, they are an imperative!
Swales save on watering, if water is purchased. Swales are also invaluable tools, to use, if your well, or other water source runs low, in summer. They not only conserve water, but make it available to plants, during dry spells! Handy to have, with our latest pre SHTF, summer drought conditions!
The Swale concept is very simple, whether the method is for ground level, or in raised beds.
However, Swales were somewhat of a challenge for me, the first time. :)
Creating Swales, is another one of those things, I was doing, way back in the eighties, even before I ever heard the term 'Swale'. In fact, when I first came across the term Swale, on the net, my first reaction was, "What in the world is that?".
I had to go look in to it, then, when I did, I went, "Duh! I knew that!"
My method, of creating Swales, has always been for raised bed gardening. However, I will be using ground level Swales for larger food production, as a post SHTF precaution.
I began creating Swales, back when I was still in my twenties. I only had a limited amount of water, to use during drought, so I created some raised beds, out in the garden.
First, I put together some garden bed boxes from scavenged boards. After that, I used scraps of plastic to line the sides, and most of the bottom of the beds. Next, I threw in a bunch of rocks in the bottom, so the roots wouldn't set in water all the time.
I was glad to have a place to put my piles of rock. I had tons of rock, from having to throw them out of the garden! Our Arkansas soil was full of them!
Once the rocks were in the beds, I threw in a bunch of hardwood sticks, and large limbs and twigs, which were left over from working up firewood. Then I got the wheelbarrow, and headed out to the barn yard, for some fertilizer.
Swales take some work to make. However, the amount of work they take to make, depends on how smart we work. My first Swale beds, were what taught me the truth of the saying, 'Work Smarter-Not Harder!'
When I made my first raised garden bed Swales, I learned just how hard they can be.......
We had some really sweet animals, back then, a cow, a one-eyed horse, and a gentle, little red sorrel mule. The mule's name was Red. Not surprising, huh? :)
Anyway..... Red had the habit of putting his do-do, in just one spot. When that pile got too tall, he would move to a new spot. This was very convenient for me, or so I thought!
Now, I am no expert on mules. Red is the only mule I have ever been around. I don't know if all mules put their do-do in just one place, or if Red was just a weird mule! I know he was smart, he was very sweet, and he could certainly be very, mischievously indignant!
I filled the wheelbarrow with Red's old do-do, then walked over to open the gate. I heard a noise behind me. When I turned around, Red had clamped his teeth down, on the handle of the loaded wheelbarrow, and was dumping it back on the ground!
I hollered, "Red'. Stop that!", and swung both arms in the air, to shoo him away. He just stood his ground, and flipped his ears back. I had seen him get irritated before. He would just glare, so I proceeded to refill the wheelbarrow.
I had to shove Red back, as he was standing right over the dumped do-do. He snorted, and only budged a step or two. I proceeded to ignore him, and scooped do-do once more, with Red nibbling the top of my head.
I got the wheelbarrow refilled. Getting tired, I went to open the gate to leave. Yep! You guessed it! The awnry Mule did it again!
Third time was a charm, as the saying goes! I got my load of Red do-do for my Swale garden beds! This time, I never let go of that loaded wheelbarrow, until I got out the gate! I also learned........ Next time, I had to outsmart the mule!
Next time, I would feed Red some Sorghum grain, in the barn, before I started scooping do-do!
.Our one-eyed mare, had been standing close by, just quietly watching the whole ordeal. As I was triumphantly leaving the gate, with my wheelbarrow full of the defeated mule's do-do, I happened to catch the mare's eye.
She gave me a wise old look, as if to say, "Seriously? You trusted that mule?!!!". I suddenly didn't feel so victorious any more!
I hope your learning curve, for gathering Swale fertilizer, won't be as difficult, as it was for me!
Once the fertilizer, is at the Swale site, it is time to continue building the Swale.
For a raised garden bed, mix all the dirt and fertilizer together, then fill the bed half full, on top of the wood scrapes. Tamp down a little. Water. Fill the rest of the way with soil/fertilizer mix, plant, and water again. That's it! Eazy Peazy!
For a ground-level Swale, dig down two and a half feet. On a downhill slope is best, so it catches rain runoff, but flat ground works too. Make the bed width to your convenience. About three feet wide is the norm. Make it as long as you want. Line the hole with plastic, to one foot from ground level. Throw in a single layer of rocks, which will be six inches deep. Next throw in one and a half feet of log scraps, old stump roots, and tree limb trimmings. The wood acts like a sponge, to hold and dispense water.
Any, and all solid or spongy, untreated wood scraps, can be used. Bigger pieces will last longer. Just make sure the wood is not spruce, pine, or other evergreen wood, as this type of resinous wood will inhibit growth.
Next throw in plain dirt, to one foot from the top. This is a good place to throw the grass and weeds topsoil back in the hole first, then other soil, after that. Tamp well, and water.
Next fill with the rest of the soil, mixed with fertilizer. Plant, and water. That's it!
The same type of Swale, can be used in long rows, for berry canes and bushes, and down tree orchard rows. Just leave out the fertilizer step. The fertilizer is put directly around the berry bushes, canes, and trees, because this type of Swale, is for the self-watering, of the berry bushes, canes, and trees!
The roots will travel to the Swales, quickly, and get all the water they need! Yum! Big! Fat! Juicy! Fruit!
  1. Hang tin can lids, in the fruiting bushes, canes, and trees, sort of like hanging holiday decorations, and these will keep birds away.
  2. Take leftover dinner bones, about half a gallon worth, cover with water, and boil slowly for two hours. Take outside, some place critters can't get to them. Leave out for two days, when its warm weather. This stuff stinks, so take gag precautions! :) Strain, and paint on bushes, canes, and trees, to keep critters from eating the bark, and/or eating the bushes to the ground in winter. Do this once a year, after the first frost, for winter protection.
  3. Mix 1/2 teaspoon of Turpentine, and 1 teaspoon of Linseed Oil, in 1 gallon of lukewarm water. Shake often while spraying newly formed, green fruit, to keep hoofed, pawed, and winged critters from eating it. Apply once a month, until harvest. Now the Swales can make, big, juicy fruit, that you get to eat, instead of the critters!

.Yes, Swales take some work. That is to be expected. Let's just hope though, your first Swale experience, won't be as much work as mine was!
Gather all your materials, before you even start digging the hole, or building your above ground beds. Things will go a lot smoother that way!
SHTF? It's not good! But it can be Swale!

I hope this helps you, and those you love.


Anonymous Ole Prepper


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