If you’re new here, let me paraphrase all of the
issues challenges my land has. If you’re well versed in the saga, feel free to skip ahead.
My ground is adobe clay. My half-acre of ground has less than an inch of gradient. That means that when it pours, for an extended period of time, our yard floods. Standing water isn’t good for plants in the ground, for our wood fences or garden beds, or for the fact I have to forge a lake to pick kale.
The “solution” of “just get it off the property” doesn’t work for me, because I follow ecological and permaculture principles, and I want to infiltrate the water into my soil to replenish the water table. My solution has been to increase absorption of my soils by amendments and earthworks- or basins and swales. Right now, I’m big on calling them a ‘rain garden’, but whatever the name, there the water can infiltrate back into the soil, but in a more convenient spot. You can read about my flooding issues and my ideas on solutions here, here and here.
So back to making hay. The earthworks I have designed could be quickly dug with a tractor, but all of the quotes I had for tractor work were out of our budget. So the only other solution- dig by hand. I’d say 9 months out of the year, this is impossible. The before mentioned clay sets up like a brick, and you can’t dig more than 6″, even with a pickaxe. But thanks to the rains we got, our ground is now soft, and I’m busting ass to get it done before my digging window is shut down.
Which is why for the past few weeks, starting the first day after the last rain, any free time has been spent digging. Digging a swale 3 feet wide, starting at 1 feet deep, sloped at 1% grade, approximately 160 feet long, with periodic wider infiltration basins, and meandering with a natural stream like-pattern. Digging a larger infiltration basin, approximately 120 square feet at various depths of 3′ to 6″, that the long swale will lead into. The soil being removed is then raked over the lowest areas, in order to raise the soil level to direct the water into the swale.
The back area is the ‘high’ spot of the yard, so we started with digging that basin first. It quickly filled up from water present in the soil. Digging wet soil, into a wheelbarrow, and then moving the wheelbarrow over wet ground is near impossible. We had to lay paths of scrap wood so we didn’t sink. Once the flood subsided, I started to dig the long swale. Now that the ground is relatively dry, it is easier to grade to the correct 1%, and make adjustments, like the curves.
I’m really hoping our region will get another big storm so I can see if this will work. Eventually, all of these earthworks will get planted with plants that can handle fluctuations of wet and dry periods, and accent rock pieces. If this doesn’t solve my problem, I will pretend its a stylish dry-creek bed, totally intentional in my landscape design! If you have a better idea of what I should be doing or how I should be doing it, please don’t tell me. I get discouraged easily. This is not easy work.