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Water Harvesting

Crescent Farm

Core Water Harvesting Techniques

One of our primary goals at Crescent Farm is to demonstrate various ways of using soil to capture water for growing plants, and return any excess moisture to the groundwater to create sustainable, beautiful and functional gardens. Crescent Farm offers eight core water harvesting techniques that can be used for any landscape big or small.


Swales capture large amounts of water running off from slopes, rooftops, or streets, and they infiltrate that water into the soil, recharging groundwater. A swale is a trench or ditch dug into the soil surface along the contour of the land. It can be filled with rocks, logs, or mulch to facilitate water infiltration. Learn more about how swales work at the Crescent Farm and how to create your own.

Lasagna aka Sheet Mulching

Sheet mulching is a quick way to add a lot of organic matter to the soil, improving its ability to hold water and enriching it with microbial diversity and mineral nutrients. It is the process of layering cardboard, mulch, and compost onto the soil surface. Learn more about how lasagna mulching works and how to do it yourself.


A passive water harvesting technique that originated in Europe. Mounds of soil are piled over logs, twigs, and food or garden waste to create water retention, build soil fertility, and provide a moisture-rich micro-climate that supports plant life. Our Hügel horticulture is based on a Native American plant palette. Crescent Farm hugels are made of logs from Arboretum trees lost during the windstorm of 2011. Learn more about how hügelkultur works and how to create your own.

Gravel Trenches

A simple and efficient way to drain standing water down a slope. A trench about 24” deep is filled with gravel and a perforated pipe to drain water away from an area and infiltrate it into the soil. This method is also known as a French drain. Learn more about how gravel trenches work and how to create your own.

Infiltration Basins

Water is channeled into a shallow basin where it will pool and infiltrate into the soil. The basin can be filled with rocks or planted with hardy species. Learn more about how infiltration basins work and how to create your own.


Terracing slows the rate of water running down a slope, and is a method of gardening on a steep slope. Soil erosion is controlled by shortening a long slope into a series of smaller steps. Slowing the rate of water gives it an opportunity to infiltrate into the soil. Learn more about how terracing works and how to install a terrace in your own garden.

Permeable Hardscape

Leaving space between pavers and using permeable material underneath, such as gravelly sand or loamy sand, allows water to sink in while providing a pleasing hardscaped surface. Vegetation can also be planted between pavers to enhance water infiltration and capture. Learn more about how permeable hardscapes work to infiltrate water and how to install your own.


An efficient irrigation system is one of the most significant components of a moisture-challenged garden. High-efficiency sprinkler heads along with spot-on watering techniques provide a strong base for a water-saving landscape. Check out this drought irrigation how-to guide.

We thank these donors for their generous support.

© 2019 Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden • 626.821.3222 • 301 North Baldwin Ave, Arcadia, CA 91007 • Website Design by Kirk Projects.

© 2019 Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Gardens

Phone: 626.821.3222

301 N. Baldwin Ave, Arcadia, CA, 91007

Site Design by Kirk Projects