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USING A HUGEL SWALE IN YOUR PERMACULTURE GUILD

If you wish to begin using permaculture guilds as a way of food production but are limited by sloping land that leads to storm water runoff that causes erosion and leaches nutrients from your soil, then you may want to consider constructing a hugel swale next to your guild. A hugel swale is simply a land depression or swale built along the contours on your property and filled with easily decomposable wood that breaks down to supply fertilizer to the layers in your guild, conserves water and prevents soil from eroding and being carried down the slope.

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It helps to store water and releases it slowly into the soil underneath to keep it moisturized and facilitate processes such as composting that release nutrients into the soil.

A huge mound/swale is filled with wood chips, rotten wood, logs,  twigs, branches, compost, leaves and other material that is nitrogen fixing. To begin, you dig a sizeable hole next to your permaculture guild and fill it with the required materials, cover it up with a layer of soil and leave it alone for a few weeks to set the decomposition process in motion. You may water it from time to time during dry weather to prevent the composite materials from drying out.  You can have more than one hugel swale designed around different guilds in order to maximize food production and space use. You can also have huge sales on several levels on a slope to capture any runoff that overflows and escapes to lower levels.

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Huge Swales or hugelkultur beds on contours are highly effective methods for setting up permaculture guilds due to the abundance of nutrients from broken down materials, as well as easy access to water from runoff that is stored in the swales. In addition, planting on soil beds along the swales helps to prevent the banks from being washed away. Ensuring consistent mulching will also help your guild to retain moisture even after the water in the swale has been absorbed into the soil. Huge Swales are ideal for gently sloping terrain, but steep slopes may require the digging of terraces and installing the swales on the downside of these. Used correctly, swales can remove the need for constant irrigation of crops save for very dry conditions and droughts.

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Huge Swales and hugelkultur can be a great addition to your permaculture guild if done right, and will provide a consistent supply of moisture and nutrients even during dry season. Using the right materials and correct techniques to design and install these elements will ensure that they function effectively. You can learn more about huge swales and hugelkultur at the Open Permaculture School and Regenerative Leadership Institute.