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Dealing with downpours

Grass after today’s downpour: If I’d had it last year I’d have saved some soil and some hard work.

One of the things I’ve learned from building a house is that half the problem, both for the house and the landscaping, is water security. Rain comes in two types, I figure. Just plain rain, which gets to everything that is exposed. And downpours, which can cause heavy runoff and ugly damage.

Here in the South, downpours are common, especially from thunderstorms. Early last summer, almost three inches of rain fell in a violent storm one night before I had established ground cover. The result was ugly and depressing — muddy gullies, parts of the driveway washed out, and young grass washed away before its roots were deep enough to hold on. I’m on a steep hillside. Simply holding the soil has to be my first priority. That’s one of the reasons I’ve not cut my grass. But even when the landscaping is mature enough to not wash out during a downpour, one wants to hold as much water as possible, let it sink into the ground, and either feed the underground aquifer or cause something to grow.

Today just before sunset we had a downpour of between a half an inch and three-quarters of an inch in less than an hour. I did what I always do after a heavy rain. As soon as the rain stopped, I did a walkaround to see how the water was flowing and how things held up. This downpour caused no trouble. No soil washed away. And the tall grass captured a lot of the water so that there really wasn’t much runoff.

Ultimately, with terracing, thick vegetation, and healthy soil, I would like to be able to capture virtually all the water that falls here, with as little runoff as possible. Rain should stay put and make something grow, not run down the hill in a gully.

This bank on the uphill side of my driveway was my most difficult runoff problem. It was nothing but a muddy scar after the driveway was made last spring. Now it’s covered with talls grass and lots of day lilies.

The driveway culvert: running clean and light after a heavy rain

The uphill side of the driveway: not much runoff, even though there’s quite a large watershed above it, and no mud flowing

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