Rainwater harvesting: Infiltration features

rainwater harvesting pitsOne category of rainwater harvesting uses Mother Earth as your “storage device.”  You design your landcape, including choices on surface materials and making decisions about the grading (land sculpting), with the goal of making water soak into the ground.

Up until fairly recently, architects were trained to wisk stormwater away from properties as quickly as possible.  Thus rain gutters and downspouts are directed into storm drains, and storm drains go (around here) out to the ocean.  Sidewalks, driveways, and pathways were made of impermeable materials like concrete, asphalt, or mortared brick or stone, and were similarly graded to drain to storm drainsas quickly as possible.  Unless you’ve reworked your property’s drainage within the past 5 years or so (or you had a rather extraordinary architect), this is probably how your property functions.

When we send precious rainwater zipping out to the storm drains, it does us no good in easing the drought.  The water is wasted.

Raised beds vs. Sunken beds

raised bed“To be a successful vegetable gardener you need raised beds,” the garden catalogs and East Coast garden magazines try to persuade us with effusive and glorious terms.

Consider what is behind their arguments: a drive for commercial sales, and a dramatically different growing climate.

East Coast gardeners raise their beds for two good reasons: 1) to be able to dig the soil sooner after a cold freeze, and 2) to keep the rootballs of their plants high so they won’t rot during extensive summertime rainfall. Neither of these is an issue here in Southern California. Thus their logical solution — raised beds — isn’t a good match for our Southern California growing conditions.

Are you Ready for Rain?

[see also “Are you prepared for el Niño?

I’ve been thinking about rain a lot lately, especially since we have 151 adobe bricks laid out right now, supposedly drying in the sun.

We’ve had to do tarp-foraging, and monitor hourly weather forecasts, and get together a Tarping Team who can respond almost instantly, to give the bricks maximum sun, and minimum rain … but all that has simply added to my Rain Awareness.

When rain is forecast, I have this routine:  put away the garden tools & things that shouldn’t get wet; close the toolsheds; put out wildflower seed and maybe scatter some veggie seed (greens, especially); fertilize the fruit trees; pull in the bird feeder; check the rain barrels …