THE MODERN MINT BLOG
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!
Guanock House needs a trainee topiary artist! Some of you may know it as the first home and garden of designer Arne Maynard, but is now owned and maintained by Michael Coleman and his wife Michelle. They offer meditation workshops and retreats there and it is as beautiful a house and garden as you could wish to visit. They called me in last Autumn to help shape up some of the topiary as it was all getting out of hand, but what it really needs is someone with a steady hand and lots of patience to take over the clipping …
Here are some photos of work I have been doing at the garden of Charlotte Molesworth in Kent. Snow and ice brings out the depth of the different planes and angles carved into the boxwood. A garden has to look beautiful in winter – and topiary (green architecture) helps do that! For more topiary pictures, click here.
How To Use Topiary In The Garden is my new talk, which I first gave last year via Zoom for the European Boxwood And Topiary Society. Returning to Zoom again, there are two dates available to see and hear the talk: March 16th – Book your ticket here April 6th – Book your ticket here The talk is great fun, perfect for keen gardeners or people who want to know how to improve their garden with hedges and architectural plants. How To Use Topiary In The Garden looks at how to move away from the idea topiary is twee or old-fashioned, …