Saturday, April 14, 2012

Wow, check out the amazing swales at work

In the last 24 hours we’ve had a number of thunderstorms move through the area, dumping around 2 inches of rain on us over night. This precipitation was on top of a previous day of around 1.5 inches of rain. Needless to say, I was a little hesitant to peek out the window this morning. After lying in bed hearing the rain pouring down outside off and on all night I expected to see leaf mulch running down the sidewalk. Instead I saw a clean sidewalk. Check it out. 
I promise I did no cleaning up. This is what it really looked like!  Notice all the dogwood flowers are knocked off. It was quite the storm.

The rain water wasn't gone either. Check out what is going on at my feet. 

Water still rushing down the street.  It was just pouring out of everyone's yard.  Our sidewalk was just wet from the rain with no runoff.  When I looked down the sidewalk this is what I saw

 I was astounded. You may be able to see the difference between our sidewalk and our neighbors further down. He has a relatively flat yard, but you can see water running off his lawn and across the sidewalk. 

I also investigated our backyard since there was a river of water running down the driveway. I couldn’t imagine that much water leaving our backyard since adding all the organic matter in the back, which seems to absorb water like crazy. I walked around but while the paths were washed out I couldn't figure out where the water was coming from that was creating a small creek down the driveway. 

Finally I noticed that our other neighbors’ sump pump was working overtime and making burping noises. After each burp out flooded a bunch of water that ran into our yard and down the driveway. I couldn't believe the amount of water that was coming out of that house. I now know where my first rain garden is going to be installed.  It’s a little embarrassing to be touting a sustainable, water conserving yard with a river running down the driveway.  Anyhow, I am so impressed with the swales that I’m itching to dig more on the side hill. I might have to tackle that project sooner than I had planned.  

I still can't believe how well those swales worked at catching and holding the water and there's even newspaper on top of them and the plants aren't established. It seems like as the paper breaks down their holding capacity will only improve and of course the plants will make a big difference too as they become more established. 


  1. This is the world's best publicity for swales and rain harvesting! THANK YOU for documenting this! I can't wait to see what you do with the rain garden to catch your neighbor's sump pump runoff!

  2. This is incredible! YOu have to be so pleased with all the hard work you, Guy, Rachel and friend did just the day before. What an amazing woman you are and we love you. Dad and I can't wait to see all of this magic you are putting in your gardens. Love MOM and DAD

  3. Thanks for the support. It has been an amazing project so far. Now I wonder why I was so intimidated by that hill. I'm ready for more! it's been so much fun in just the short time I've had it.

  4. It was fun to assemble too! The swales seemed small to me, but their water-slowing capacity is impressive. Thanks for offering me the chance to participate!

  5. I wondered if they were big enough too, but apparently they are doing the trick. The most amazing thing for me is that it wasn't all that difficult to do. Of course I had help to make it go faster...but still.

  6. Congrats!! It is wonderful to see this, and you can be sure that I'll be sharing with my RdP friends!!

  7. I am very impressed with your water management. Did you design this yourself? I also live in Maplewood and just discovered a small river in my backyard after this weekend. You have inspired me to see if there is anyway creative way to deal with it. Thanks!

  8. Hi Rebecca,

    We should get to know each other since you live in the area. I used what I learned about swales through permaculture to design the hill project, but besides that I designed it myself. It took years to figure out what to do, though :) It was an intimidating project, still is, since it's in my front yard where anyone can see it. Let me know if you want help figuring out your "small river."