Let's walk through the Whole Foods Market Edible Forest Garden and learn about permaculture design. This site is 135' x 50', similar in size to a suburban home lot, and demonstrates how a traditional suburban lawn can be transformed into an edible woodland.
Swale Water Harvesting System
A swale is a ditch dug on contour that captures rainwater allowing it to slowly sink into the soil. In the Whole Foods Market Edible Forest Garden a swale water harvesting system was designed to slowly move water throughout the garden following the natural contours of the land. The swales have a slope of 2%-3% to move the water using gravity from one swale to the next. Plantings, a rain garden and berms have been added to the swale system to provide additional benefits.
But where does the water come from?
In permaculture the problem is the solution and waste is a resource. The Green Earth Institute operates an organic vegetable CSA with a vegetable washing station from May through November. Previously this water washed down the grass eroding the soil, flooding the walkway, and created unsafe walking conditions. Now the washing water, which is harvested rain water filled with nutrients from the organic soil, is piped into the forest garden swale water harvesting system. Problem solved and a once wasted resource now feeds the forest garden! The swales also capture rainwater, but the vegetable water provides a consistent supply necessary for young plants to establish a healthy root system.