24 February 2013

Drought or Flood?

Our immediate area doesn't have storm drains, but a series of ditches and swales that divert stormwater to nearby drains.  I'm sure they worked well in 1951 when our house was built, but I can see how, over the years, the landscape changed and they became less effective.  When we bought this house in 2006, the yard had some drainage issues.  The biggest problem was in the back yard - back then, I noticed that when it rained, it came down in buckets.  That is a problem when your yard doesn't drain well.

So, these series of ditches I mentioned?  The ones in the front yard run along the street and eventually meet up with a storm drain.  The one in the back yard along our property line is supposed to meet up with another that runs to the street behind us, down our neighbors' property line.  The problem?  At some point this ditch was filled in and planted in our neighbor's back yard.  The standing water in our yard can't drain, but our other neighbor's whole back yard becomes a lake.

We've been in a drought for a number of years, and flooding hasn't been a problem recently.  January  was thought to be the driest month here since records have been kept, but yesterday was the rainiest February 23rd ever.  Our normal rainfall for February is about 3 inches - we had over 2 inches yesterday with a monthly total of almost 9 inches.  Did I mentioned the thunderstorms forecast for tomorrow?  All of this flooding has made me think of preventative measures I took, or how I changed the way I garden, to take all of this into account.  I built raised beds.

My first back yard vegetable garden wasn't in the sunniest part of the yard, so I relocated it the next year.  Then I found out how much that part of the yard flooded.  The first year I grew potatoes it flooded like this just before I was going to harvest them.  Then came the raised beds.  I was thinking recently about moving away from that in the future, but all of this rain makes me wonder if I should.  I think I will stick with raised bed, in a way.  I expect the beds in the front yard to become nice mounds of fertile soil over time as I add compost and avoid tilling for the most part.  There are a couple of low areas out there right now that need a little help.  When I pulled radishes this morning I noticed some peas that were underwater.

I can't do too much about the water in the first photo, but there are areas around our garage and near the house that I can do something about.  I have set up rain barrels in the hopes of diverting some of the water that has nowhere to go after it leaves the downspout, but I have plans for more.  One of those is digging a dry well - or many of them.  There are a lot of different plans for these on the internet, but basically they use the same idea.  Dig a deep, cylindrical hole.  Line it with landscape fabric.  Fill it with drainage rock.  Cover it with landscape fabric, soil and sod.  When there is more rain than your soil can hold, these wells will hold some or all of the excess until it can be reabsorbed.

For photos of the flood of 2010, click here; for the flood of 2013, click here.


Gardens at Waters East said...

You do have some drainage issues in your yard. That can be a real problem. Just found your blog and enjoyed reading past postings. Life in your area is different than here on the shores of Lake Michigan in USA. Have lots of water, but it stays in the lake!

a3acrefarm.com said...

Yikes! That is a lot of water. Best of luck to you as you work to solve those water issues. I really like your blog!