How Ditches and Walking Paths Help You Grow More Food

Watering a more extensive garden can be troublesome. It takes time dragging around a hose or carrying around watering cans. There is one garden design that can help you make watering effortless. Start with walking paths.

Do This to Water Your Garden of Any Size Without An Irrigation System

How big is your garden? A quarter-acre, or five acres, this method works great. It spreads and soaks rainwater as much as water from a well. And any excess water flows into your growing space.

You get near-perfect levels of soil moisture, even in dry seasons. That's because water moves across the land on contour, spreading and soaking the right amounts of water according to soil conditions.

Designing Water Systems For Flood Irrigation in Organic Gardening (YouTube, 7:59)

If you have any aquaculture systems or fish upslope from your garden, even better. Nutrient upslope can include ducks, fish, or even small livestock. All are overflowing into walking paths dug on contour.

Yes, the design is that simple. Place your permanent raised beds on contour with an upslope ditch to guide water through your garden. You get access to your growing spaces without walking on beds, plus a channel to move water through the growing areas.

Design Water Management According to Garden Elevation

This works best if you have a slight slope from the top to the bottom of your growing space. Even with perfectly level ground, flood irrigation like this can work. Think chinampa or canal growing systems.

I always say “system” because the right design increases function in your growing space. That means less work for you while gaining greater abundance in the garden. Depending on how you layout your area, you can move nutrients without effort.

Even with sandy soil, your vegetable garden can enjoy deep roots for every plan. You don't have to drag around soaker hoses, find the perfect time to water, or even monitor rain gauges. Nature waters the garden for you.

Does this design have problems? Yes, it can. If you have hot temperatures and a breeze, you'll lose some water to evaporation. This method doesn't work well in the desert unless you are planting in wider trenches.

It's Easy to Build Drainage and Walking Paths On Coutour Starting With Your Design Plan

You'll also need to put in the work upfront. Design your growing beds for your climate and reducing work takes time upfront yet can save you years of frustration. You can scratch in these irrigation channels over time because they don't have to be that deep.

These drawbacks are manageable in your design plan and with proper equipment. The raised beds at The Sustainable Homestead Institute, which I feature, are done with a BCS Two-Wheel Tractor. Once built they don’t take much support.

Remember, these are not irrigation trenches, instead, you are repurposing walking paths to distribute water through your garden. Depending on your garden space you may fill paths with woodchips during the rainy season to let you walk on paths sooner.

Don't let your questions about garden design get in the way of making food security a reality. You and your family can enjoy healthy organic food even if the supply chain fails or climate pressure. Write me today with your questions.


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