If you’re interested in Permaculture water harvesting systems, I made two of the videos from the Forest Gardening Course class on Water Wise Gardening available to the public.
I have been doing quite a bit of research on water-harvesting and storage tools and techniques and trying to evaluate different technologies for the cold climates of the Great Lakes Region.
These strategies include things like deep mulching, gardening in permanent ground covers, contouring garden beds to catch and store their own water, and managing overall site water resources to get the water to where the plants need it most.
All of these strategies like mulching and bed design are “holistic” and “stack functions.” For example, mulching improves watering, but also fertility, weeding and pest control, so they have compounded benefits, gaining us a higher return, with a lower investment.
According to Cornell, gardens with just a few inches of mulch have been documented to require half the water, 2/3rds less time weeding, and create 8 – 13 degrees cooler soil temperatures. http://www.gardening.cornell.edu/factsheets/mulch/mulchland.html
Which is why Bill Mollison famously quipped: if you take the money you were planning to use on irrigation and put into mulch instead, you’ll get twice as far and be happier for it, too.” Of course, we can even grow our own mulches, making it a free option.
And while saving water and time are valuable in themselves, these Permaculture strategies improve produce quality, too. Rather than simply supplying the minimal plant water requirements as drip irrigation does, these strategies regulate soil moisture, which has a significant effect on the quality of a lot of produce, including tomatoes and peppers, which can get blossom-end rot from inconsistent soil moisture, leafy greens which will bolt in hot dry soils, and many root vegetables that can become woody without consistent moisture.
If you’re interested in learning a whole suite of Permaculture strategies for water-wise gardening, we’ll be offering a class this Sunday at 9:00 am. We’ll cover perspectives including Bill Mollison, Rosemarry Morrow, Toby Hemmeway and Geoff Lawton. We’ll discuss Permaculture’s “5 fold path” to water, compare various “water storage” systems by effectiveness and ROI, and share the simple equations that can help us decide the right size for swales, rain gardens, and water barrels. We’ll also tour our gardens and see how we implemented these strategies here. And we’ll even share some resources on water-saving and recycling, and grey-water systems. Suggested donation, $25.
Here we are on the first of July and our forest garden is swirling with life and laden with vegetables and berries.