We need to drought-proof our farms and gardens. These days it doesn’t matter where we live – often we don’t get enough rain. We’re experiencing the worst droughts in living memory. 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 to drought-proof our farms and gardens.
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 remarkably practical solution that tends to get overlooked – improving our Water Cycle.
Improving our water cycles, we get rainwater infiltrating and stored in our soil rather than running off, and reduce water loss through evaporation. The water we measure in our rain gauge infiltrates and is stored in our soil, rather than running off!
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.
This eco-logical approach is economical and straightforward. We use vegetation to store water, reduce runoff and water loss from the soil through evaporation.
But the real magic happens in our soil. Given a plentiful, regular, and preferably diverse diet of organic materials and root exudates (the sugars and proteins plants release from their roots), soil organisms will construct soil that water readily infiltrates and is stored.