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Here is a way everyone can store water

 
gardener
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Location: Olympia, WA - Zone 8a/b
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I love storing water in ponds—having surface water on a wild homestead brings a bit of magic and beauty to the land. But the reason these features are great for water storage is not actually the water you see.

This week’s blog post – 3 Ways You Can Store Water on Your Wild Homestead – provides an overview of 3 different ways to store water. But it turns out that all 3 are actually just variations on the same theme.

That theme is that soil is a great place to store water on your wild homestead. If you follow this basic theme then you will see your land improve and become more abundant overtime.

Who knows… you might even create some new springs!

Why Soil is Where You Want to Store Your Water



Surface water features such as ponds get all the attention but really they don’t hold that much water. At least not compared to the amount of water the soil can hold.

The blog post introduces you to swales, mulch pits, and permeable ponds. Each of these 3 features work in the same way. The water you see on the surface in each of these features is not what’s important—it’s the water they add to the soil that matters.

These features capture water and slow or stop its flow over the surface. This gives the water time to soak into the ground.

The result is your land will become much more abundant due to the increase in water in the soil. This water will also stick around for far longer than surface water will.

First, water moves much slower through the ground than it does on the surface.

Second, groundwater is protected from evaporating.

Third, the sheer volume of water that soil can hold will almost always be more than any pond or other water feature you can build on your wild homestead.

This last point is the most important and it’s why you can store water even if you don’t have streams or ponds on your wild homestead.

A simple way to increase how much water your soil can hold is to increase the amount of organic material it has in it. One great way to do this is to add mulch to your soil. Another is to plant perennial plants. Also, don’t remove the leaves that fall on the soil in the fall.

Overtime these simple methods (check out the blog post for more methods) will increase the amount of organic material in your soil which will great increase how much water your soil holds.

While you may not be able to see this water, you will see the results in an increase in abundance on your wild homestead. Plus, you will have to water less and less.

This is what I mean when I say everyone can store water. The key is not to focus on the surface water but instead to focus on the groundwater that is stored in the soil.

Surface features like ponds and swales are there first to get water in the ground. This is why I don’t line my ponds with impermeable material. I want the water to soak in overtime.

How Do You Store Water on Your Wild Homestead?



Hugelkultur beds like the one in the picture are another great way to add large amounts of organic material to the soil.

While ponds, streams, and other surface water features get a lot of attention it’s all the little things you do to build up your soil that will truly hold the most water in the long run.

So what do you do to hold water on you wild homestead? I would love to hear from you!

Please leave a comment below sharing what you do to store more water and also make sure to check out the blog post to learn more about why soil is a great place to store water and features like swales that can help get surface water into the ground.

While you are over on the blog most make sure to leave a comment! If you are the first to do so you will get a piece of pie! The pie will get you access to some special features on perimes, discounts at some vendors, and you can use it to purchase some products on the permies digital marketplace.

If you leave a comment on the blog post make sure to leave a post here on permies too so I can easily give you the slice of pie.

Thank you!
 
gardener
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I've just been reading, "the soil will save us - how scientists, farmers, and foodies are healing the soil to save the planet" by Kristin Ohlson. In Chapter 4 she gives an example of an American farmer who plants fields of polycultures as animal and human forage where the tallest plant is a sunflower. Having done this for about 15 years now, he can push a moisture meter easily down 4 ft. That's an example of how deeply we can get water infiltrating if we heal the soil through simple techniques such as no-till, cover-crops, and planting a wide variety of plants. An interesting byproduct of his management was that the insect quantity and variability has sky-rocketed. These insects are in balance with the plants - the farmer uses no insecticides, and the insects actually eat many weed seeds, keeping less desirable plants under control. These are things people can do even on urban yards to conserve water. Planting bulbs and deep rooted flowers is a great first step in a location where things need to look "neat".

Staff note (Daron Williams):

First comment on the blog post! Thank you! Pie for you!

 
Daron Williams
gardener
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Location: Olympia, WA - Zone 8a/b
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Jay Angler wrote:I've just been reading, "the soil will save us - how scientists, farmers, and foodies are healing the soil to save the planet" by Kristin Ohlson. In Chapter 4 she gives an example of an American farmer who plants fields of polycultures as animal and human forage where the tallest plant is a sunflower. Having done this for about 15 years now, he can push a moisture meter easily down 4 ft. That's an example of how deeply we can get water infiltrating if we heal the soil through simple techniques such as no-till, cover-crops, and planting a wide variety of plants. An interesting byproduct of his management was that the insect quantity and variability has sky-rocketed. These insects are in balance with the plants - the farmer uses no insecticides, and the insects actually eat many weed seeds, keeping less desirable plants under control. These are things people can do even on urban yards to conserve water. Planting bulbs and deep rooted flowers is a great first step in a location where things need to look "neat".



Thank you Jay! That sounds like a really interesting book... I'm going to have to look it up! Thank you for sharing! Yeah, I agree--there is a lot people can do even in an urban area. And it's amazing what the results can be in the long run.

My big permeable pond currently goes dry in the summer. But I also know that the bottom of it is likely only 2-3 feet above the summer groundwater based on the level of the wetland on my neighbors property just downstream from the pond. I really think that by building my soil and adding more water catchment features plus planting a lot of perennial plants with a focus on trees that overtime I can raise the groundwater up those 2-3 feet so that my pond never goes dry in the summer. At least that is my goal!

I really wish more people would focus on building soil and holding water on their property. So much could be achieved with fairly simple actions!

Thanks again!
 
Jay Angler
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I have two other purposes for the "pond" I mentioned on your blog. My goal is to plant some edible shrubs and trees on the south-facing slope north of the area I want to dam, so I'm hoping that light reflecting off the water in the spring will help compensate for my lack of sunshine and since water is such a thermal hog, hopefully it will also balance out some of our high and low spring temperatures. As the temperatures go up, I hope that Lemna (duckweed) will float to the surface (it seems to naturally submerge in the winter as part of its lifecycle) to control mosquitoes as the water seeps into the ground. I highly doubt that the water will stay all summer, so I can't stock it with mosquito eating fish and I don't know if I'll have enough frogs around to control the mosquito in the spring. I've got ducks that are happy to eat *all* the lemna I'm willing or able to give them, and lemna seems to be able to completely dry out and yet still come back, so hopefully I can get a reasonably self-sustaining system going that stacks functions.
 
pollinator
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Any cheap ways to get deep roots in in late autumn? I dug a worm town in the side of this food forest/ orchard in my neighborhood. I'm not really allowed to dig into anything in the grass (it was almost grass before this permaculturist planted fruit trees).  Just at the side.  I doubt t sunflowers can get in there in the fall,  and I don't have any more daikon seeds.  Maybe I can get some comfrey from a nearby neighborhood.  

What varieties of su flowers? Maximillian or something?
 
Jay Angler
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Location: Pacific Wet Coast
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Just this spring I was given comfrey and I planted it in an area that tends to run out of water and I am *really* impressed by how well it did. I do irrigate that area once or twice during the drought season and once when the comfrey collapsed from heat/lack of water, I chopped and dropped it rather than watering it, and it came back perfectly happily.

I also have a couple of Maximillian sunflower patches. In really long droughts they don't flower for me, but they don't get any supplemental water and haven't died, so that's saying a lot in my books! That said, they're only spreading extremely slowly, and they're quite thin and small. Things I'd read suggested they'd grow thickly enough to discourage/redirect deer, but that's definitely not happening in my eco-system.
 
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I live near a pond and have 1/10 acre with abutters all around. The ground is difficult to dig due to the quantity of rocks, mostly baseball size and smaller. So I composted with leaves mostly and kitchen scraps. I found a local coffee shop for grounds and it helped make my compost piles large enough to heat up. I have been using worms for about 5 years also. Now my soil has improved greatly. I use rainwater exclusively for the plants, but plan to remove my gutters because they are keeping the roofline too moist. My plan is to have potted plants and potted worm mulch below the roofline in addition to smaller rain buckets and barrels in the back. The front yard used to be very flat with no soil life. Now it is a few inches higher with all kinds of critters. One side of the yard is getting there also. I am slowly creating a berm around the perimeter and using plants as a privacy screen and figure that will hold in moisture. I have a well and want to ensure there is always water. In the winter before the snow plows come, I try to shovel as much of it I can into my yard.  This also helps reduce the pile of compressed snow they leave at the edges. My biggest takeaway from others is to continue keeping as much leaves and other material from my property to be incorporated into the soil. I am also a plastic container reuse fanatic. Rain water goes into all sorts of containers to be stored for later use. Much of it in bottles between plants and maybe even covered by mulch. Last year I found a few bottles tucked under some plants...just when I thought I was out.

 
pollinator
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Water storage in the soil has really become a priority for me this year. Since my topsoil is mostly sand for several feet under the surface, it just tends to dry out so quickly. I've spent the fall & winter burying organic matter in hopes of it acting like a sponge; including buried hugels containing wood, rabbit manure, chopped weeds, leaves, and whatever else I can get ahold of. I'm also trying to keep the ground covered with, either, growing plants or a deep layer of mulch.
March-May tends to be the rainy season for the area, so I'm working on getting enough OM in/on the soil to take advantage of it this spring and save as much water as I can. My end goal is to, someday, be able to grow without irrigation to the gardens because the soil is built well enough to sustain the plants during the dry summers. I still have a long way to go, but I'm excited to see how the things I'm doing now impact the water retention of the soil in the upcoming growing season.
 
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Funny I should see this just now. I was just thinking of posting a thread about what is called the HydroGramin, which is a proposed model for restoring depleted aquifers. Here is where I first found out about it: The HydroGramin Model This looks like applying a Permaculture type of idea on a community-wide scale.
 
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