Georgia Magazine - March 2018 - 42
Slow it, spread it, soak it
COURTESY ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY
Sculpting your garden
to harvest every drop of
BY BRIAN BARTH
n 2007, former Georgia
Gov. Sonny Perdue, now
the secretary of the U.S.
Department of Agriculture,
prayed for rain on the steps of
the state Capitol in Atlanta. The
region was in the midst of an
epic drought that threatened to derail the economy and make simple
pleasures such as washing the car
and gardening next to impossible.
The multiyear drought, which
saw Lake Lanier's water levels drop
drastically, was a wake-up call for
those who'd assumed Georgia was
immune to the water shortages that
plague the West. Suddenly everyone
was installing low-flow toilets, rain
barrels and drip irrigation. Xeriscaping-landscaping with drought-tolerant plants-suddenly became fashEA
Rain gardens collect and utilize rainwater, particularly runoff
from impervious surfaces like sidewalks and driveways.
ionable, and it remains so today.
Still, one of the simplest ways to
conserve water is often overlooked:
shaping the soil so it captures any
rain that does fall and stores it for
drier times. There are several ways to
do this, such as swales, rain gardens
and dry wells.
Besides reducing the need for irrigation, these techniques also can
help prevent erosion. Some
even improve soil
quality without the need for compost
or fertilizers. These surprisingly simple landscape features can be as attractive as they are functional.
The golden rule of stormwater
management can be summed up as
"slow it, spread it, soak it." Rather
than allowing rainwater to concentrate into larger and larger rivulets as
it runs across the landscape, the goal
is to spread it out, which slows it
down and allows it to soak into the
soil, where it can nourish your
NSION AND GEO
Imagine you are a
raindrop, flowing down
the hillside. The steeper
the hill, the faster you go.
But if you suddenly encounter
a flat depression,
you have no choice but to
Wild white indigo
stay put and join your peers in a
little puddle, where you soon percolate into the ground.
A swale is nothing more than a
long, narrow depression that runs
across a hillside, perpendicular to the
direction of the slope-a fancy ditch,
really. Because slopes rarely have a
The soil displaced when digging a swale makes a convenient raised bed for decorative
consistent pitch, a swale typically me-
plants, whose roots also help stabilize the soil.
(Continued on page 44)
More online at www.georgiamagazine.org