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Swale - /swāl/ - noun

July 17th, 2019

Definition: A long trench dug in the ground meant to catch runoff water, soil, and organic matter. Swales are often made in conjunction with berms, the soil removed to create the swale can generally be used to create a berm of earth on one or both sides of the swale. Berms and swales combined allow water to enter and remain in the landscape more evenly.

In the Forest Garden: A standard berm and swale is a long, low combination of the two that snakes across the contour of the Forest Garden site or surrounds a permagarden. This protects the uphill portion of land from fast-moving runoff and catches excess runoff on the downhill portion. Standard berms and swales allow for the most uniform collection of organic material across a Forest Garden site, and are commonly used in fields combined with alley cropping. They also create a guiding contour line that can be followed when ploughing in the early years of a Forest Garden.

Learn more about creating berms and swales in Module 15 of the Forest Garden Training Manual.