How I Built a Raised Bed Garden in a Flood Zone
What areas near you have experienced drought or flooding in recent years?
Our area has been dealing with both. After six years of devastating drought, the last couple years have turned to serious flooding.
Last spring as I began preparing to plant a new garden, I endeavored to address both drought and flooding issues. Because I also knew that in heavy rains the pond here catches the rainwater runoff from the fields around, flooding a large area of the pasture and the lowlands around the house and barn.
So I began building a raised bed garden in the only area available on this property where a garden can nicely fit, up the side of a bank, in terrace-like fashion. I say “built” because it involved quite a process. I dug out the beds about a foot deep, and filled the bottom with composted manure from the cow shed. Then I sifted through the soil to remove grass roots – Bermuda grass especially is insidious to regrow and take over an area. My beds were finally piled several inches above ground level and covered with a thin layer of woodchips to hold the soil in place and to provide a mulch cover to protect the plants’ roots. Finally, I dug small ditches around the beds themselves.
My thought was to build raised beds like this in order to catch all the rainfall in case of drought, as well as to provide for extra drainage in case of flooding. And I thought I was building high enough up the side of the bank to avoid the flood zone.
But I was sadly mistaken!
I had just finished building a beautiful garden area, planted spring veggies, set out transplants, and even started three strawberry beds. Everything was growing beautifully.
And then it happened. One morning we awoke to heavy rainfall. We found a lake surrounding the hill where the house sits. The pond behind the house had overflowed its banks and spread out over a large part of the pasture. And worst of all, it flooded my brand new beautiful garden area! And stayed there for days, soaking and rotting most of what I had planted.
But that’s not all.
When the waters finally subsided, I replanted everything, and then it all happened again!
After losing three plantings of spring veggies, I finally gave up on them because temperatures by then had warmed up to summer highs. One bright spot – thankfully most of my strawberry plants survived!
I began extending the garden area, building more beds higher up the bank. I built these differently. Since there wasn’t much Bermuda grass there, I was able for these raised beds to just lay down cardboard, pile the composted manure on top, add soil on top of that, and then a thin layer of woodchips as mulch on the very top.
Thankfully, the upper parts of the garden area finally produced fairly well, even though they were planted late, even for summer crops. And by the time I was able to get more beds built for fall crops, I barely had enough time left to get some decent fall harvest as well.
Actually, we lived with ongoing flooding issues throughout the growing season, lasting all summer and well into the fall. In fact, the pond (that became a lake!) never returned fully to within its banks again! By now, the next spring, it’s still hanging around the top edges of its banks.
So why did I persevere through such challenges to grow a garden last year?
Why am I intent on planting again this spring, knowing I may have to deal with the same struggles all over again?
Well, in my opinion, it’s good for us all to be growing at least some of our own food consumption. It seems to me that we will do well to begin changing our mindset and practices from just being consumers to also contributing to the production of at least some of our own food, as much as possible.
In a world where the failing commercial farming industry is struggling to keep up with the growing global population, more and more areas are also struggling with devastating drought or serious flooding issues. In fact, the UN has recently declared that, “’We stand at a critical point in history. Already at the beginning of the year we are facing the largest humanitarian crisis since the creation of the UN (in 1945)’ . . . more than 20 million people face starvation and famine (this year).” Such severe situations require more aggressive measures, working with natural resources to overcome the challenges.
However, there is hope! Because it’s being done! Even in some of the most extreme desert conditions, experimental projects are developing flourishing food forest abundance even without irrigation, which demonstrate the shalom and wholeness that I believe are God’s desire for His people, as they participate with Him, to bring renewal to the land all across the globe. More about those possibilities in future posts . . .
Last year I was determined to be a producer, and not just a consumer.
In spite of the challenges, I was determined to grow food for the family, and to preserve as much as possible for the winter. The garden did finally produce enough to enjoy some fresh garden food for the family. And I was also able to can some green beans, pickle some cucumbers, dehydrate some fall kale, and finally can some salsa with the piles of green tomatoes still on the vines at the end of the season.
After my experiences last year, I have done considerable research to figure out how to grow a garden in a flood zone. I’ve been working on some ideas, which I will be writing more about in future posts. Suffice it to say at present that I’m considering concepts and principles of permaculture that involve working with nature and natural resources as God created them, so amazingly that when given the needed resources, they are able to adjust and renew themselves in the midst of adverse circumstances.
So . . . we’ll see how it goes, once the spring rains begin again. Will we have drought or floods this year? Or a more “normal” growing season?
Despite the challenges, I have chosen to work with God’s sustaining grace and the wisdom of His created natural order, to journey towards His shalom abundance, in order to contribute to our family’s food supply. I intend to do my part in being a producer, rather than just a consumer.
I would love to hear your thoughts about this.
Where are you on this journey, toward a more sustainable lifestyle as a producer?
Click the button to find out the top 5 things I learned in my new permaculture garden in a flood zone.
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