We need to drought-proof our farms and gardens as these days we often don’t get enough rain. In some parts of the world, drought threatens peoples’ lives as well as their livelihoods. Even in balmy temperate climates, we now get heatwaves and weeks without rain.
Drought-proofing our farms and gardens, we:
- Make the most of the water we have available,
- Extend our growing season by keeping soil moist well into dry times, and
- Save money on feed for livestock when growing gets tough.
Usually, we drought-proof by digging dams and bores and putting in new water points, bringing in rotational grazing practices, growing drought-resistant crops, using mulch, greywater, and water-smart irrigation technology.
But as the recent droughts have shown us – these solutions are not enough.
One option is to use landscaping solutions, like swales, terraces, capturing runoff from hardscapes, paths and driveways to absorb runoff, Natural Sequence Farming, and Keyline on farms. These earthworks help re-hydrate soil by redirecting and reducing surface runoff, increasing water infiltration into the soil.
In drylands, it’s often impossible to grow crops without these structures. That’s why people have been using them for centuries.
There is, however, a remarkable practical solution that tends to get overlooked – improving our Water Cycle.
Water cycles are ENORMOUS – but there are parts of the cycle within our farms and gardens that we can improve… even in tiny backyards!
See the blue arrows in the diagram below.
The principles are straightforward, modify your water cycle to:
- Reduce runoff
- Reduce water loss from soil through evaporation
- Reduce water loss from transpiration
- Increase water infiltration into the soil
- Increase water storage in soil
- Increase precipitation
Using this eco-logical approach to drought-proofing, we:
- Get rainwater infiltrating our soil rather than running off,
- Increase water storage in our soil, and
- Reduce water loss through evaporation.
We also improve the functioning of our soil ecosystem. Growing gets easier when we get our water and nutrient cycles functioning again and bring back some of the free ecological services Nature can provide for our farms and gardens.
Get the amount of water you measure in your rain gauge infiltrating and stored in your soil, rather than running off!
Featured image © Tom Fisk