Definition: A circular berm surrounding a tree used to capture and hold water and nutrients so that they can filter into the soil around the tree’s root zone.
Cuvettes in the Forest Garden:
This technique is particularly useful for Forest Gardeners who need to conserve as much water as possible and really optimize how they are using their already limited supply. By digging a small berm around the root zone of a tree (which roughly equates to the perimeter of the tree’s crown), farmers can conserve and concentrate water and nutrients (e.g. compost) where it is needed most – at the root level – while also protecting their trees from spreading diseases and pests.
Forest Gardeners establish a single cuvette when a tree is younger, then adding a second, larger cuvette around the perimeter of the tree’s crown as it reaches maturity. There are two things to keep in mind when establishing cuvettes: 1) always remember to place a small mound of dirt around the main stem to protect it from large amounts of standing water and keep mulch from touching the trunk, and 2) don’t use soil from inside the cuvette to build the circular berm – this will be taking rich topsoil away from the tree!