Linear Food Forests along Hugelkultured Swales

In this design we will be planting linear-food forests all along the downhill side of each of three hugelkultured swales.   What is a hugelkultured swale?


While the tress and shrubs are in the early stages of growing (small) we will use the open space to grow some of our annual vegetables. We will also plant some nitrogen fixing ground covers and dynamic accumulators to help build the soil.

Open areas between the linear food forests allow for access to harvesting the crops, provides full sun penetration, and creates an area for our annual gardening or small animal grazing. The nutrients from animal droppings are washed into the hugelkultured swales which in tern soaks up the nutrients to fertilize the entire linear food forest.


Directory of Design Elements
The hyperlinked elements below open a new page with more-detailed explanations of each as it relates to the CSC permaculture design. The elements without a hyperlink will be linked in once we complete the content of those pages in the coming months. (We wish they were all done as well.)

Permaculture Design for CSC in Stelle, IL  CSC Vision for Property  Design Overview  Linear Food Forests  & Hugelkultured Swales
Year-Round Greenhouse  From Orchard to Food Forest Wood Gasification  Chinampas Gardens   EarthCamp Village  
Season Extenders
 Season Extenders
 Integrated Gardening Techniques Coppicing/Pollarding   Thermal Mass Rocket Stove Chickens and Ducks 
Keline Plowing on Contour


- Root Cellars
- More....

(composting) Toilet
 Hedgerows  Keyline Plowing     

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4 Responses to Linear Food Forests along Hugelkultured Swales

  1. I think think this is a really great way to do food forests. After time the center can be left open for gardening and grazing, or filled in with more trees depending on the needs of people around it.

    One note on the hugel beds based on sepp holzer’s teaching. You may have factored this into your design based on your site, but its worth noting. He recommends against laying out hugel beds on contour and instead lays them slightly off contour. This allows water to slow down, but still drain if theres a lot. otherwise you risk blowing out the bed. The idea of a hugel bed is that it’s light and airy, as opposed to the berm of a swale which should be a bit compacted to stop the water. Also, having it slightly off contour can help drain cool air and eliminate potential frost pockets where you’re trying to grow food. That said, next year were building some in our food forest very similar to yours pictured here. With a swale, on contour. The land has very little slope unlike the alps where Sepp is living and I’m not too concerned about it on a gentler slope.

    • Good thoughts Jeremy. Appreciate your weighing in. We’ve designed around Sepp’s experience and concerns. Our swales on contour have spillways built into them so that the water never gets above 1/3 the height of the hugelberm. With earthworks, we are always in control of the water depth regardless of how much rain. There is no way for them to blow out and the center and upwards part of the hugel will say airy. The wood holds the water which is slowly wicked up through capillary action.
      We finally planted our first linear food forest so are looking forward to seeing how everything works together. Hope you can come and see them growing at some point Jeremy. Cheers.

  2. This is a great post and summary. Is the swale in the video about the size of those indicated in the illustration of the design concept you included? Not in terms of the length on contour that the swale can extend, but in terms of the height/width of the swale and mound itself. What length of swale did you need to be able to plant all of the categories (overstory, midstory, understory, etc.) that were in the illustration? Also, how far downhill of the berm did you plant to fit it all in?

    • Hi Nancy…
      The illustration of the swale and the swale in the film are close in size in terms of width and height. The actual dimensions of the hugelkultured swale are 2′ wide by 1′ deep and the berm it soaks is over double that, 5’wide and 2.5′ high. The trees in the illustration are a bit shorter than they will actually be. We are intending to pollard the over story to about 15 foot….the midstory to about 10 feet… and the understory at about 3-6 feet. The spacing is wider as well than the illustration eludes. The plantings extend 15-feet from the downhill base of the berm. Hope this is helpful.

      Swale #1 is about 80 feet long, swale #2 is almost double that.

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