As weather patterns become increasingly uncertain due to climate change, knowing how to flood proof your garden will benefit not only you, but those around you.
This is because domestic gardens help to manage surface water runoff in urban areas. They can also contribute to the problem, however, as in many areas people are increasingly paving large sections of their properties.
Bearing that in mind, here are some simple ways to flood proof your garden, and help to alleviate the pressure of runoff in your garden and your neighbourhood:
Remove impermeable surfaces
Large driveways and other paved surfaces like patios prevent water from seeping into the soil. Especially if there are gradients, these areas may channel water into specific areas. This can lead to a buildup of runoff and potential flooding. If you can’t remove paving, think about installing drainage systems next to large surfaces.
Plant a diverse garden
Plants help to lessen the impact of falling rain, reducing erosion of the topsoil. They take up water from the soil and transmit it back to the atmosphere through evapotranspiration. This allows more surface water to be absorbed. Root structures also bind the soil together.
Different plant types utilise and absorb water in different ways. A diverse garden can therefore absorb 30% more water than a monocrop lawn. Larger trees increase your garden’s capacity for storing water, while their extensive root systems improve soil drainage.
Rain tanks collect roof runoff via gutters, so less water enters your garden and store water to be used in drier periods.
Green roofs also reduce runoff by increasing your garden’s absorbent surface area and reducing the heavy flow from gutter downpipes.
Use permaculture to plan your garden
Permaculture includes many concepts that help to flood proof your garden. It uses approaches found in natural ecosystems, and is not restricted to growing food: permaculture can be applied to all parts of your garden.
Swales, for example, are lower levels of ground or ditches that use gradual slopes to direct water away from other areas.
A French drain is a trench filled with gravel, sand, rocks and/or perforated piping. Water filters through the material in the drain to aid water retention.
In some countries, rain gardens are becoming popular. A rain garden collects rainwater and water running from house gutters in shallow landscaped depressions. It can contain plants that do well in very wet conditions, as well as features like small ponds.
Improve your soil health
Healthy soil is also critical – the more organic matter in your soil, the better it will be at storing and draining water. A layer of mulch on the surface helps to add this organic matter to the soil, holds topsoil together, and keeps in rainwater.
Plant a food forest!
Food forests are a great way to harness the power of permaculture and decrease runoff, while providing a variety of food at the same time. Their different canopy levels break up the force of rainfall really well and provide high plant diversity, while mulch and soil conditioning play an integral role in a functioning food forest.