THE MODERN MINT BLOG

Apr04

Flooding (Part 2)

To prevent future flooding there is a need to manage the land in a different way. The dredging of rivers will do nothing but speed up the flow of water to ‘pinch points’ further upstream. The use of sandbags is a measure provided too late, when normal life has been halted by water flowing into homes.

Natural Flood Management (or NFM’s) must now be considered a major part of flood prevention. The critical factor of NFM measures? The planting of trees to slow down running water.

By planting trees near headwaters they act as a buffer to hold up rainwater runoff. Planting woodlands near streams works in exactly the same way, slowing down the water. Debris from the trees can also fall into the river, creating dams that hold back excess water. These ‘timber flow interventions’ can even be man-made, by laying fallen tree trunks into the stream. These are far cheaper measures than building bigger walls to protect towns.

Trees also help water percolate into the soil (60 times faster in some research) although infiltration will be reduced if the land is already saturated. If this is the case, what options do we have then? Short-term, we are back to the sandbags. Long-term though, we lessen rainwater runoff rates from poorly managed land. How do we do that?

Treat our soil better.

We could stop winter sowing of crops. This leaves the soil bare for months. With nothing to bind it together it turns into mud when wet and leads to land erosion. The sowing of a winter ground cover would benefit the soil as much as preventing flood damage.

Stop compacting the soil with heavy machinery and too many animals walking over it. Compacted land works the same as any impermeable surface – it cannot take the water, so the water must just run off and down streets and into homes.

Add organic matter to the soils. They will hold more water, yet won’t become waterlogged.

Is there anything else we can do?

Don’t build houses on floodplains. This may alleviate housing shortages in the short-term, giving whichever Government bragging rights over what they have achieved while in power, but the problems will arrive later on… and money will still have to be spent on rebuilding, on rehousing, on healthcare for people who are having to live with stagnant water around their ankles. The costs will always catch up with us in one form or another.

Concrete and dredging are all very well – but we need to slow water down, and give it places to sit and be held when it does become to much.

We need to plant trees, we need to cherish and protect our floodplains, and we need to look after our soil.

More ways to manage the landscape can be found in these books… get them now, you will learn a huge amount!

Mar19

Wasting Water

Well worth a read in the BBC today – a note on how wasting water in the UK “as socially unacceptable as blowing smoke in the face of a baby.” Read the report here. I have written a talk about how we use water in the  garden. It was written when I moved from Hampshire to Essex and found out for myself just how dry this area of the UK is. It completely changed the way I garden. The lack of such a precious resource as water made me question what we can do to save it, store it and …

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Mar14

The Foie Gras That Tastes Like Nature

Ethical Foie Gras? Is That A Real Thing?   Foie gras – can it be ‘grown’ ethically? The video showing how this farmer works suggests it can… We first read about this in a book called The Third Plate by Dan Barber. I loved it and I love how Eduardo the farmer, who farms on the Dehesa in Spain, has a ‘take half leave half rule’. When talking about how the geese eat his olives… “They’re always quite fair. If you make sure the geese are relaxed and happy, you’ll be rewarded with the gift of fatty livers. That is God’s …

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Mar04

Hardy Orchids Via James Wong

Hardy orchids – here is a subject I would love to know more about – so lo and behold, James Wong has written about it in the Guardian! Read the article about hardy orchids here. I love having orchids in the house, just your usual run of the mill buy them in any shop orchids, but it is a pleasure to read about the plants that will grow outside and cope with this weather. (This insane weather! From the hottest days of February on record to Storm Freya, all within a week. Weather is always such a factor in gardening, but …

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