The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Raised beds parallel to the slope in soggy ground

Backyard chinampas
"It is hard to tell in the photos, but does the gully have an outlet, and did you make the 'chinampas' parallel or perpendicular to the grade? Or, 'Will It Drain?'"

--- Eric in Japan, in reference to my post on terraforming the gully

This is an excellent question, and one I didn't really really pay attention to when I first pulled out my shovel.  I made the raised beds parallel to the slope with no drainage option, mostly because you want raised beds to be flat on top, and it's much easier to make them flat if you build parallel to the slope.

Broken drainpipeSince reading Eric's comment, I've been keeping my eye on the beds and I've been pleasantly surprised to see very little water building up in the aisles between.  Granted, it's been relatively dry here (you know, an average of only about half an inch of rain per week), so the groundwater isn't terribly high.  But my sky pond is still about halfway full, despite the fact that Lucy thought there was some kind of critter in the drainpipe from the roof and ripped it to shreds a couple of months ago, meaning only groundwater is recharging the pond.  (I really should fix that....)

Barring extreme waterlogging in my new gully beds, I figure I'll just plant with the water in mind.  For example, I discovered this summer that the watermelons planted in a raised bed above some very soggy soil did much better than those in the main part of the garden, so those would be a good choice for our chinampa beds.  And for all I know, next year will be as dry as this one was wet, and I'll be glad for every ounce of water retained.

Or maybe I'll change my mind and add some drainage!  Only time will tell.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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I am happy to hear that the beds seem to be working well without drainage!

Have you thought about trying some hugelkulture beds further down the gully? I read in another blog somewhere about using rotten wood in a standing position, as opposed to laying it horizontally. They claimed better results. I sense an experiment waiting to happen....

Comment by Eric in Japan Fri Nov 15 07:02:10 2013

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