Harvest the Rain – Passive Water Collection in Your Yard
Did you know that for every inch of rain that falls on a 1000 square foot of roof, you could collect 650 gallons of water? What a difference that could that make in your garden this summer!
With this 650 gallons of water you could:
- Grow more crops – grow green
- Use it for watering your animals
- Have a backup water source for emergencies
- Be led to a more self-reliant life
It looks like it will be another dry summer in some parts of the country. In her article, 5 Reasons Why This is the Most Important Year Ever to Start a Garden, Maria Rodale suggests that food prices are going to be steep this summer as a result of the drought. “The drought in California will cause food prices to rise this summer…no getting around it. And it will have at least a two-year impact because many of the crops in California are tree crops (fruits and nuts), which take longer to recover from drought.”
Check the US Drought Monitor map to see the most current drought conditions for your area. It’s updated every few days.
Passive water harvesting allows moisture to stay where you need it most- near the root system of your plants. Evaluate your property. Where is it warm, where is it windy, where is it wet? Observe all of the places where water flows on your property.
During the next big rain, be sure to get out and walk around your house. Observe and study the happenings of your immediate environment – where are the canals, gutters, downspouts, culverts, water runoff ditches, and wetlands, whether manmade or natural. Are these catchments benefiting your yard?
These Permaculture principles (and many other great suggestions) can be found in the book – Harvest the Rain, How to Enrich Your Life by seeing Every Storm as a Resource by Nate Downey
Ten drought buster garden strategies
1. Use compost to build your soil so it can retain maximum water. If your soil allows water to rush off of your property, then it is likely that it can become more absorbent.
2. Retain water in the yard with mulch. This will reduce evaporation and make your soil hold more water. Before your region’s rainy season is the best time to start, but any time you add mulch you can retain the moisture that’s coming!
3. Use sheet mulch – wet the soil, add a layer of cardboard and 2 inches of manure, straw or leaves. Let it sit over the winter or at least give it several months to decompose.
4. Use a permaculture principle and cut a swale, which will contour the land to increase water filtration from rainfall. Adding swales to your property is an excellent way to capture and use what nature gives you. Make sure you have a way for the excess water to exit your property or you will have flooding issues.
5. Maximize your growing area and sow plants so you have less bare ground. They will provide wind protection and shade and will hold the soil together for maximum nutrients to the root system and maximum water retention.
6. Conserve and only add water to the root zones. In addition to soaker hoses, you can place a PVC pipe with holes drilled in it – or use an upside down pop bottle in the soil, next to your plant. Any way to slow down the flow of water. This can be adapted to any garden growing situation.
7. Look for ways to break the wind. Strong winds will remove moisture from your healthy soil. You can use walls or fences, rocks or trees- be creative as you look for ways to stop the wind.
8. Create more shade on your property. Conserve moisture and create a cooling, relaxing place on your property.
9. Choose the right plant for the right place. Different plants have different light, water and soil needs, so match a plants needs to the area of your yard where it will grow best. Keep track of the amount of sun exposure and rainfall your garden areas receive so you can group plants with similar needs together.
10. Choose native plants. They look beautiful and usually need little supplemental water once established. Adding native plants to your garden also helps provide habitat for local wildlife.
These 10 simple strategies can help capture moisture around your yard. A healthy garden doesn’t necessarily need a lot of water. Amending your soil, choosing native and/or adaptive plants, capturing the water you have and watering properly could save hundreds or even thousands of gallons of water a year. With these 10 drought buster gardening tips, you will be on your way to watering lean and growing green.