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!
I am running a topiary workshop in 2020 with the wonderful topiary artist Charlotte Molesworth at her spectacular topiary garden in Kent. This is a topiary workshop where you will learn to clip, so be prepared to do some cutting. We start with a tour of the garden, which Charlotte and her husband Donald have been cultivating for 34 years. It is organic, full of wildlife and has the most extraordinary pruned shapes made from yew and boxwood. You can see more photos of the garden in an article in the Guardian here: Topiary Garden In Kent What Else Will …
On Monday night I gave a talk to the Hardy Plant Society Middlesex. Below are a few links for further information based on some of the ideas discussed in the talk: Real Seeds – a fantastic supplier of fruit and vegetable seeds for growers. Boxwood Caterpillar Advice – from the European Boxwood & Topiary Society. I will also write a little companion piece this winter with more information and some topiary techniques, so watch out for that on this website. Boxwood Lure & Nematodes – my preferred option for dealing with the caterpillar. Discount code for 10% off is EBTSBOX29GBZ …