Tuesday 11 February 2020

Stress from the floods

Roger and Cathi's garden. It got much worse than this
Drain Strain September 2019
As I write this we have no idea how it will end. A huge lake has invaded our garden. It might be only 30 cm deep but it covers more than a hectare. It covers half of Cathi’s garden and continues on over her fields. Its total volume must be more than a million litres.
Each time in rains yet again the lake’s level rises by more than the rainfall. A centimetre of rain brings a rise of rather more. Each dry day there is no perceptible fall in the level. We have had a pump going that takes out thousands of litres an hour. I makes no difference. Imagine  emptying your bath at a cupful a day- or perhaps even by a thimble?
As I write at the moment I cannot bare to predict the harm to my garden. At present a fifth under water a further rise of  40cm will threaten our house. Already Cathi’s barn is under water. Every morning she wades across the mud to feed her old rhea stranded and isolated on the far bank.
There is still ahead of us a Winter of wet and little evaporation.
I cannot bare at this stage to elaborate on the measures we are taking to provide drainage.

It looks spectacular at times

Drainage theory
Let me step back to describe the fundamental principles.
Most gardeners are familiar with the problems when water stands and cannot penetrate through. The problem is usually puddling or compaction and gardeners often try to improve absorption by adding gritty materials and busting compaction.
This is not relevant to me as my soil is almost pure sand. Unfortunately  two metres down it is pure clay where further penetration is almost impossible.
A route for surplus water
This is achieved by buried drainage tubes and ditches. On a very small scale perhaps rubble drains. The problem of course is there must be places for pipes and ditches to go.
Water received from higher land
This can be very much more than the actual rain that falls on your land. We have that in diamonds  and are surrounded by higher land on three sides to the garden.
How long will things survive underwater?
About half my garden has been underwater
February 2020 The black dog descends
I don’t just mean the black stinking mess our garden became after six months of standing water but also the dark depression that crept up on me to the point that I am now on medication against acute anxiety. Brenda too struggles to hold us together. Its worse for Cathi next door. For months she waded every day across foot deep ever muddying water to feed her rhea stranded on the far side. Her shed is flooded and birds are trapped high in her henhouse. The ducks love it as each morning they swim outside. She struggles to keep her rescue hedgehogs thriving and cart out extra food to supplement the grass for her soay sheep.
It is only now I can bear to tell you about our watery nightmare. It’s not over yet but the end is nye. You might have noticed my posts have appeared less frequently recently. I have almost run through my stock and must write some more. I have just not felt up to it. Several further posts will be on the implications of this watery theme.

Things got worse after my first paragraph written six months ago. Our problem is that our gardens exist in what in Winter is a great big wet hole. Cathi and our own flooding has coalesced into a seven acre lake.
As we all know it just kept on raining last Autumn. In a two month period we had the rain for an average year.

Searching for the drain in the dry top part of the garden.
So much for no dig gardening!

Hitherto we have been dependent on a huge fourteen inch bore drain laid in 1940 by War Agriculture when constructing the then Melbourne airfield. It has become partially blocked over such long time. It runs down into the three foot slope to the top of our garden.
It goes under a fairly busy road at a depth of seven feet - and runs away to lower fields below

The horror of finding the under road blockage
We of course with the help of drainage experts dried to clear the drains. Our world came to an end when they found that re-metalling the road several years ago had almost completely smashed the drains.That is the only route to take the water away

Everyone told us being under the road made it the council’s responsibility!
Ever tried to get speedy work from a council whose maps show no drains at all! Cash strapped councils don’t do these things without prodding and ‘legislation’ and considerable time - which we did not have. We were told of a case where a council was successfully sued but the litigant was NOT awarded costs - more in lawyers fees than paying yourself.
We have asked a reputable contractor to do the work which as I write is delayed by administration!

A faltering step forward

By the time the lake had extended to seven acres Peter Williams and a local farmer John Rowbotham came up with a short term solution. John has a drain that crosses under the road two fields away from our flooded area and it has spare capacity. The farmer who owns the intermediate field (itself thoroughly saturated) kindly agreed for a drain to be cut across his land. Local drainage genius Robert Hunt braved the bog to cut in a three inch drain that leads into a temporary ditch that gives the water a route out. A ‘full pipe’ removes thousands of gallons an hour and yet it will still take a month to clear the water (And that assumes no more rain - some hope with a huge storm predicted for tomorrow)

The machine that laid the drains was very speedy and Robert managed to not get stuck in the bog
Temporary ditch runs water to the drain
After three weeks the flooded half of my garden is starting to reappear. Not so for Cathi where the water is much deeper. Heaven knows how many of my thousands of plants have been killed after up to five months under water.
I will be keeping you posted!

Six months ago - much worse was to follow in Cathi's garden
The very next day from writing the above it rained more than two inches - put us back at least two weeks


  1. Soul destroying. Hope you manage to salvage some of the garden when the weather improves. Stay strong.

    1. Thank you so much. The fact that I have brought myself to publish this indicates I am on the mend

  2. Oh dear, poor you, poor Cathi!
    I am not surprised the whole nightmare made you anxious and depressed. Fortunately, nature often surprises us with how it bounces back even after the most adverse conditions. Hopefully, your gardens will recover - and all of you as well.

  3. That’s horrendous, Roger, my sympathies are with you all. We shouldn’t complain about our mud after seeing what you are having to contend with.

  4. Oh my god, what a nightmare. So did you get hit with that new storm as well? I wish I had some suggestion to offer but can only wish you the best.

    1. yes storm Ciarrra dropped three inches and Dennis threatens more but looking at the weather maps today, two days before, it looks if the worst might miss us

  5. Sorry to read and view the photos of recent floods. I hope there is a good recovery. Your title "no dig gardener" is quite relevant to me as I have spent some time touring India and due to the nature of the soil in many areas digging is not a practical proposition due to climate. However the Botanical gardens in the major cities are stunning Ex horticultural Askham Bryan student from 1970's

  6. Oh I hit the publish button without my name David Brown

    1. The good old days! Great to hear from you David. I look forward to future comments! and perhaps hearing from you.

    2. Hot off the press,David- the super dooper larger drain which has taken a week for a pro company to install has started to run today but it will still take several weeks. There will be more posts about this!
      Dreading the billl -several thousands.

  7. gardens/money aren't important (!), just your and brenda's heath

    1. Tell that to my head!
      Am getting closer to normality, son


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