flickr photo by dalvenjah http://flickr.com/photos/dalvenjah/3287057322 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) licenseMuch is being said about the 2015-2016 El Nino and its possible effects on Southern California.

Many are preparing by getting their roof and gutters checked, putting away garden furniture and taking down temporary structures. Many more are installing rain barrels and redirecting downspouts.

How many are thinking about all those extra square feet of hard surfaces we used to cover up what was once open ground? Those roads, walkways and patios, pools and spas? Even those lawns we let die or go brown in the heat of the summer?

The problem we face is that all those hard surfaces no longer absorb water, so it will all be running off down into a gutter or curb and draining into our flood control systems, bringing with it all the trash and pollution that has built up since the last big rain. All that water ends up at our oceans, killing wildlife and polluting our beaches. That’s assuming the water even gets there. Many of our flood control systems just can’t cope with the huge volume and speed of the water flowing through it, so we will be seeing more flooding of roads, sidewalks and property.

What else could you do to prepare?

Our landscapes in our own backyards provide a wonderful opportunity to help prevent some of this flooding. Soil that is loose, mixed with organic compost and covered with organic mulch can hold a tremendous amount of water. If we can ‘slow it, spread it and sink it‘ we can capture it in our yards, and the soil will be doing the job it was designed to do: clean and filter the water before it’s used by plants or returned to the rivers, streams and oceans.

This weekend, get out there and cover up any bare areas of soil with a good, thick layer of wood chip mulch. Be generous – 4″ – 5″ can hold onto water, keep down weeds, and feed the beneficial microbes in the soil.

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earthfriendly

Diane Downey and Sheri Menelli specialize in earth-friendly landscaping practices, including vegetable gardening, rainwater capture, soil health, native plants, and efficient irrigation. Diane is a professional landscape designer with over 10 years’ experience, and Sheri is a certified permaculture designer with a six-year-old food forest in her backyard. Combined, they have over two decades of teaching experience. Their classes are taught to the public in the classroom, in the field, and via one-on-one garden coaching sessions.
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