Trench, Berm, Swale, Channel — What The Heck?

If you’re new to permaculture design, you may feel intrigued hearing the terms like trench, berm, swale, channel, etc. My aim in this post is to help you learn the differences amongst these jargons.


A trench is a pit in the ground. A trench is dug to harvest rain water.


A ditch is very similar to the trench but differs in a way that the ditch is usually used to move water from one place to the other, usually run away water from the road.


A berm is a mound usually put up on a contour to contain water. Berms are usually planted with grass or other vegetation to prevent soil erosion.


A swale is a combination of a trench (the pit) and a berm (the mound). A swale must be located on the contour line for maximum efficiency. When in case of a swale, downhill plantation reduces erosion. Swale helps to recharge the ground water by letting the water seep through the ground.


Channel, unlike swale, would be located slightly off the contour. The main purpose of a channel is not just catch water but to help the water flow from one place to the other. This differs from ditch by slowing the flow of water. A channel is put to its best use when used to irrigate drier areas.

Today, I’m grateful to the Almighty for leading me in my life.

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