July 2016
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The Story of Our Swale As Told by Four Fig Trees

The weather here has been incredibly hot and dry all summer. We’ve had almost no rain for weeks, and the average highs are 95 degrees. In many areas of our property, plants and trees are looking stressed. Grass is dying and the ground is starting to crack.

In the midst of these brutal conditions, something very exciting is happening. The trees in our swale system are thriving. A couple of years ago, we started digging the first swale then later extended it and added a lower swale a year later.

The upper swale has experienced two seasons of winter rains, while the lower swale has experienced one. During the rainy season from November to February, the swales fill frequently and then soak in slowly. The theory of the swale system is that the landscape becomes hydrated downslope slowly over time. Time will tell but we’re seeing some very encouraging progress.

This photo shows a fig tree that was planted as a bare root 16 months ago in the upper swale. The first season showed moderate growth but this year it has really take off after benefiting from two rainy seasons.

Tree Planted 16 Months Ago in Upper Swale Berm

Tree Planted 16 Months Ago in Upper Swale Berm

By contrast, here is a bare root fig tree that was planted in the lower swale 4 months ago. You can see that it is growing very slowly.

Tree Planted 4 Months Ago in Lower Swale Berm

Tree Planted 4 Months Ago in Lower Swale Berm

About 5 years ago, I planted 2 fig trees in the yard before the swale system was built. This picture is one of those trees. It has grown very little over the years. It is now a few feet below the lower swale. It seems to me to have grown slightly better this year.

Older Tree Below Lower Swale

Older Tree Below Lower Swale

Now here’s the most impressive one. This is the other fig tree that was planted 5 years ago. It is a few feet below the upper swale. Like the previous one, it had not grown well the first few years. Even last year it only showed moderate improvement. But this year, it has exploded with new growth and it is covered with developing figs.

Older Tree Below Upper Swale

Older Tree Below Upper Swale

This last picture shows all four fig trees. You can see the sharp contrast between the two trees around the upper swale on the right, and the two on the left below the lower swale.

All 4 Fig Trees

All 4 Fig Trees

This is a very exciting testimonial about the potential of the swale system. In all, we have about 80 fruit trees in the two swales. If the rest of the trees thrive like these fig trees, we have a lot to look forward to in the coming years.

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