Catch And Store Energy With Ditches On Contour

Ditches On Contour

Ditches On Contour Hold Water and Grow Food. This video to making ditches on contour and how they can be used to hold water and grow food. The video shows what the backyard looked like a year ago and some of the bare patches are evident but it was much worse. When it rained it was dangerous to walk down the steep incline as falling on my ass was a constant threat. I had thought long and hard about how to control the erosion since laying new grass seed every year never worked. The incline was just too steep. Finally, after three years of wasted grass seed, I carefully followed the instruction of Jack Spirko and Geoff Lawton and used an A-frame level made out of PVC pipe and duct tape to trace lines (landscape chalk) level on contour.

Geoff Lawton Swale On Contour

I thought that having a stepped backyard would slow the water runoff and stay in the ground longer. I got the idea of creating a stepped backyard from a neighbor who had cut down a dead oak tree in my backyard that covered the area where the ditches now lie. He suggested a set of long steps made from wooden planks but I thought that too unnatural and unproductive.

Since March of 2012, I had been creating designs on how to make ditches in the backyard that would be beautiful and productive. It took a while and the success I have had with smaller ditches and hugel (woody core) garden beds led me to be more careful putting my ideas into action.

Step 1

I began in September of 2012 to draw and dig the lines on contour using an A-Frame and before I did that I called Miss Utility to come and mark the lines for power and cables to my house so that I did not cut them by accident. That is an essential first step before taking on such a project. Then with my trusty shovel, the ditches were dug, filled in with small branches, leaves, compost, topsoil, covered with rye, clover, and hairy vetch, and then I layered on some straw to keep everything moist.

Step 2 ReDo 

That worked fine for about a month until I noticed that the ditches had depressed to an almost flat level with the ground again thus destroying their purpose. This goes to show that doing things right the first time is not always a great idea. I had to think bigger and in November with help from my children, I dug up the ditches and replaced the small branches with great big logs of wood from the tree my neighbor cut. Once the ditches were dug anew I layered them up again in a similar fashion to the first time and they have held up very well. So good in fact that by April they were ready to receive the wintergreen and cranberry plants I ordered from


Now it is June 1 and the ditches and the plants they support do look great. In another year or two they will look even better and be productive. In this case, the labor involved in doing a better job the second job was well worth it. Be sure to follow up your mistakes with corrections and it doesn’t hurt to start all over. That’s it for today now go and fix something you didn’t get right the first time.

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December 12, 2020

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