Is it getting dry yet? Here in the Pacific Northwest, we’re blessed with rainfall throughout much of the year. During last year’s drought, I felt so thankful to live in this place with abundant water. Then last summer and fall, we experienced a drought ourselves, and all of my water storage plans came to fruition. Yes, it was dry, but the way that I’ve shaped my small garden really helped me reduce my watering and continue to grow food.
Rain barrels are wonderful things, and they allow you to store water for watering plants and even for drinking, should you set them up for that purpose. However, a rain barrel isn’t the only answer for water storage. There are many ways to store water in the garden, and another major one that we often miss is the idea of contouring your garden landscape to make it easier to store water.
Take Advantage of Your Garden’s Natural Contours
The first way that you can become a savvy gardener requires no digging whatsoever. Take a look around your land, and see where it’s wet and where it’s dry. Take notes on where it’s sunny and shady as well, since this will impact the temperature of your plants. Some plants like cool, wet places, while others don’t mind some sun and dry soil. If you’d like to grow greens, you’ll want to find a cooler, wetter place. Once you’ve looked around to see where the water naturally goes, determine whether you can use that place as a garden. If you have very intense sunlight and heat, consider planting shrubs or a tree that will provide some dappled shade as well, if that’s what your plants require.
Use Rain Chains and Rain Gardens
If you don’t have all of your drains hooked up to a rain barrel, consider creating a rain garden. Whether it’s by the side of a sloping path or driveway or at the bottom of a drain, rain gardens are one way to store and clean water. A rain garden is simply a garden with wetland plants that sits next to a drain or other place where water tends to pool. They’re often used to slow down water that’s rushing off roads, but you can use them to slow and clean water in your garden as well, and if the water you’re filtering is somewhat clean already, you can even use them as natural locations for water-loving food plants. Keep in mind that if water is filtering off a driveway, it may contain oil and might not be the best water for food crops. Water from a pathway or water that would otherwise go into a rain barrel is a better choice.
Creating Contour Swales
Creating swales in the garden can help your garden store water and requires minimal digging. Look at the contour of the land, and note where the land in your garden is the same height. Use pegs to plot out contour lines in your garden, and then dig a shallow trench on the contour. As the water moves downhill, it will move into this trench. Even if you can’t see the water, the soil contains it, and the contoured area will become a little wetter than the areas around it. It will also collect leaves and other debris, creating a good mulch. Plant on the bottom side of the contour, and your plants will benefit from the extra water it has collected.
Have you shaped your garden so that it stores water effectively? How do you keep water in your garden?
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