6 In Do

So We Got Some Rain, aka I have a Lake in my Backyard

One of the basics of permaculture is to observe your site before doing anything, for ideally a year. It is advised not to build or do major plantings until you are familiar with your surroundings. To create and foster a permaculture garden design, its important to note the sun patterns, feel which way the wind blows, see where water puddles in your yard, etc. And in true permaculture fashion, I’ve done all that, for the past year. I have pages after pages of sketches of shade patterns. I’ve noted when the birds and the bees visit the yard. I’ve watched my prayer flags flutter in the wind to see which way it blows in from. The only thing I have been missing was seeing were the water flowed. Because for the past year, we had no rain.

Until now. The 8 or so inches, that we miraculously received over 72 hours, gave me a serious crash course in observing how my yard behaves in the rain: It floods.


Now this isn’t a huge surprise. When we bought our house the realtor told us non-chalantly that the back yard doesn’t drain well. We were told by ever person we’ve ever met in our neighborhood that in the winter, the yard turns into a lake. Based on digging, I already knew that our solid clay soil didn’t drain quickly.

So I was expecting a few puddles that maybe took longer than normal to drain. I figured I would expand them and turn them into catchment basins.

I was not prepared for this.

flooded yard

75% of our yard has a lake of about 4-6″ of water deep. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that ducks will show up.

double dug bed

The section of cover crop that I so back-breakingly dug up a few weeks ago in prep of creating a raised bed and planting is a swamp.

floating stella

the gnarly mill ends that we were going to use to build our raised beds, which are each about 16 feet long and weigh close to 70 pounds, are floating around the yard. Stella hangs out on top like a boogie board.

flooded flower bed

My temporary raised bed that I was planning on planting sweet peas is now nothing more than a border of flooded compost. 


floating monkey

this is what happens when Stella sneaks an inside toy outside

So what do we do now? We wait for the water to go down, then dry out, then get to work. First step is to build a better outdoor roof for the hens, and rise the soil level in their run. In the garden, we will continue to plant cover crops and amending with compost to increase drainage. There will be some some serious earthworks of digging swales that feed to catchment basins. Plants will continue to be planted on mounds and we will slowly raise the soil level.


The wood chips that we so painstakingly laid over cardboard to sheet mulch our pathways has all floated away.

artichoke on mound

Thankfully, the artichokes and my fruit trees that are planted on mounds stayed above water level.

And yet despite the thousands of gallons of water standing in my yard, we are still in a drought. This storm helped out, but we would need a storm like this every weekend for the rest of our rainy season in order to get back to normal levels.

flooded coop

The poor chickens also go a lake. Luckily the hen house didn’t leak, or float away.

I alternate between finding the situation dire and desperate to ridiculous and hilarious. After all, in some situations that you can’t control, all you can do is laugh. And pull out your rain boots and splash around!

cover crop

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  • Reply
    February 12, 2014 at 5:26 am

    This is life on the Texas Gulf Coast. We tend to get our rainfall all-at-once and wind up with lakes in many areas of our yard. Nothing like yours here. Sorry to read about your drought turned deluge. Catching water — not a problem there!

    Hope you dry out. And I really hope your drought conditions lessen soon.

    PS — check out keyhole garden. Drought-proof, flood-proof, work-proof.

  • Reply
    February 13, 2014 at 1:48 pm

    I am wondering if hugelkultur gardening might be helpful here.

  • Reply
    February 17, 2014 at 9:46 pm

    My first year (two years?) in my house I had flooding, too! This last rain, nothing even puddled up– I didn’t do anything specifically to prevent it, but I think getting more plants and structure in the yard helped give the water somewhere to go. Of course, we didn’t get THAT much rain this time, so I might be getting ahead of myself… I guess time will tell! (my flood pics: http://welloneofmyblogs.com/2011/03/27/rain-rain-go-away-no-seriously/)

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