Tip of the Week #5 (archived, May 2011):

dig a swale

…what’s a swale, you ask?  Oh, just a depression that usually directs water from where you don’t want it to where you do.  I say ‘usually’ because we are promoting a more indirect method, for the purpose of groundwater recharge/ infiltration.  So in this case, where you want it to go is into the ground, not into the river, lake or storm sewer (which goes directly into a river or lake).

Why, you may ask?  Well, for the same reason we are suggesting you save some rain, to reduce runoff and recharge our freshwater aquifers.  If you think our groundwater supply is NOT in trouble, I suggest you dig a little deeper   (Aaahahahahaha!) –

Ok, all puns aside, groundwater is another post entirely,
but digging a small trench parallel to a contour
on your property (that is, perpendicular to water flow)
will allow rain runoff to slow down and seep into the ground.
This is a surprisingly effective way to reduce your
watering demands on your landscape.

Better yet, make it a dry stream

swales can be beautiful AND functional

Make sure that once it is at least 10′ away from your foundation, it actually holds the water.  This allows it to seep into the ground, rather than just channeling it to your nearest drain (as most dry streams have been created to do).

Excavating deeper and adding more permeable materials is sometimes necessary if you have a lot of clay in your soil.

And adding some deep rooting plants will help to naturalize, beautify and make it more permeable!   Wait, am I describing a Rain Garden?

see?  swales can be beautiful AND functional, too

Then use your Rain Bench™ kits to create an awesome rainwater catchment/ outdoor

a seat wall that holds rainwater inside

living space, and direct the overflow right into your new swale.  Voila, you have a sustainable landscape that you can fully enjoy and everybody can appreciate.  Thanks!

Check out the youtube video below for an enlightening description of this.

Either way or otherwise, we’ll see you in the funnies!