Swales on Flat Properties

Roeland has a question. “In Q&A 13, a berm swale system “for flat properties is mentioned. “And I’m very interested
in this technique. “It is very hard to find examples of these “in my searching of the internet. “Can we delve deeper into this? “Are there references you can recommend, “which my searches has not turned up?” Well, our original Green
in the Desert project was on flat country. And we put in a kilometer of swale, seven swales across ten acres. And like this one, which
is in our bottom valley in the main valley at Zaytuna Farm. They’re very wide and shallow usually. Little bit severe on the back cut there, needs to taper that off really. But. So, sloped in a bit on the back cut, flat. Below grade. So goin’ down, below grade. And then a very wide shallow berm. That’s all you need. So the berm that I’m sitting on is still higher than the
top of the back cut there, so when this fills, it floods
back over the land behind. Now if I build a higher mound here, it would flow back further and further, when it was totally full. So they’re wide, shallow, and the mound is usually wide and low. And that’s about it. And if you look at our original
Green in the Desert video, you will see a grader puttin’ em in, we put this in with an excavator here, ’cause it’s part of an earthworks course. But, usually, if there’s no rock, usually a road grader puts ’em in very very fast on flat country. And they’re incredibly effective, and they’re very good value for money, as far as money spent, to volume of water held,
spread, and soaked.


  • first hit – Yeah! thanks for your videos – Greets from Germany

  • Rami الحمادي

    Thank you Geoff.

  • Thanks! Did Zaytuna get rain this week? We saw it rained out your way in NSW.

  • I just received a 720.$$$ dollar water bill 😥I've been feeding the neighbour hood for free. Never got any help some thanks but next year I'm done.

  • João Pedro Moreira Gonçalves

    https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL9WAf9lckk6agKPiukqBoW8PJu4CdXRsC Large swales in Portugal with gentle slope about 1/200.

  • Do you have some examples of swales in veg gardens?

  • Katherine Cockerham

    Jack Spirko made some videos a few years ago about putting in some swales on his flat Texas property. I did a search on his site for swale and came up with several videos. https://www.youtube.com/user/survivalpodcasting/search?query=swale

  • Previously an attempt was made to ditch and drain the natural swale in this 3 acre field. I have sense continued to restore it. Skip to the last part of the video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U35gOLfGD58

  • Futurecare Design

    Most of the polder in the Netherlands is one big example of swales in flat country. We call them 'sloten'. The only difference is that they are always full so its more like a chinampa system.

  • G'day Geoff, I understand the theory and have seen the results, we live in the Murraylands of South Australia. 200acres of old over used farmland. We get 300mm over a 10mth period, IE no great rain events, when it does rain we seldom get puddles to speak of, and when we do they have soaked in within 20 minutes ( next day dry dirt).
    Will swales work in such a climate?
    Look forward to your reply. Thanks for your hard work.

  • I live on 1/2 acre and have a gentle slope in the front yard where we put two swales. Rainwater from the roof gutters dumps into them in order to spread the water across the growing area.

  • Is there any garden related question Geoff doesn't have the perfect answer for? This man is a genius!

  • Planting Pioneers

    I was with Geoff years ago in South Australia on a design job and one of the best swales I've ever seen was put in with a road grader, definitely the best tool if your site allows it. My friends at Perma-Pastures farm in East Texas have a few swales on flat Land.


  • Shucks, Roeland sounds like he is from side of the world… same problems of flatness too. siesa

  • Do you have an tips for high altitude environments, particularly arid ones?

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