A home garden can account for up to 50% of a household’s water use. That’s why outdoor watering and lawns are targeted for cutbacks. At Crescent Farm, we’re dedicated to finding the best solutions for creating a bountiful, beautiful leisure and food garden that uses less water.
Preparing For Drought
Southern California periodically suffers through bouts of extremely low rainfall. In recent years, we have experienced the worst drought in our state’s recorded history. This year we are fortunate to have abundant rainfall, on par with a normal winter season. However, a good year doesn't mean the drought is over. Climate change is marked by increases in extreme weather events, so we may see the drought return at any time. Lower amounts of rain may very well be a permanent part of our climate, but we don’t have to abandon our gardens. We just have to garden differently and use plants and grasses that are better adapted to a Mediterranean monsoonal climate.
Even if winter rain storms should arrive as widely forecast, they will not solve our short or long term water issues. Crescent Farm is your go-to resource for learning how to harvest rainwater where it falls and keep it in your garden. The natural water cycle is driven by the sun, which heats up the oceans and water bodies. Water evaporates as vapor into the atmosphere. As the altitude increases, the temperature drops, causing the water vapor to condense into liquid form, known as precipitation. Healthy soils soak up and infiltrate rainfall and precipitation, recharging groundwater, ultimately cycling back to the oceans and other water bodies.
Beneath the soil exists a vast aquifer containing groundwater, which flows through the fractured rocks below the initial layer of soil. The top of this zone is called the water table. The water table can be only a foot deep or it can be hundreds of feet below the surface.
Most water falling onto an urban or suburban landscape will run off into the storm drain, ultimately into the ocean. Practices that improve soil health and create channels and basins for water to pool and infiltrate back into the soil help to recharge the groundwater. Unfortunately, many human practices such as industrial farming, deforestation, and overgrazing livestock destroy the soil’s ability to infiltrate and store water, instead encouraging rapid soil erosion, and ultimately disrupting the natural water cycle. The Crescent Farm is dedicated to using practices that build soil health, so that gardens can actively support water to return to its natural cycle and help break free of drought.
2014-2015 was an El Niño year, where significantly wetter winters were expected in the southwestern United States, including Southern California. Despite these events that potentially increase rainfall, it's best to prepare for the worst and use water wisely, so that we will have sufficient water for future generations. Crescent Farm aims to serve as a go-to resource for learning how to harvest rainwater where it falls and keep it in your garden.
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.
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. We wish to share methods of maximizing our existing rainfall and humidity to create sustainable, beautiful and functional gardens. We are building healthy soil that can absorb and hold water while growing diverse and enriching landscapes and at the same time, reducing urban runoff. Crescent Farm offers eight core water harvesting techniques that can be retrofitted into any landscape no matter how big or small:
Core Water Harvesting Techniques
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.
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.
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.
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.