28 May 2008
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Richard's Garden

Disaster! We had three days of sustained raining. The ground was not particularly dry, so it could not absorb so much water. It does not help that the local soil is Keuper Marl, which is a red clay and relatively impervious. Furthermore, a few years ago, one of my neighbours extended his house, doubling the roof area. The rainwater from the entire roof is sent to a 1m3 'soakaway', that is, a hole 1m3 in volume filled with gravel.  Since Keuper Marl is impervious, a soakaway is pointless and previously the water from my neighbour's roof was sent to the public drain. The builder told my neighbour that a soak away would not work, but since a soakaway is cheaper than laying drainage pipes to the public surface water drains, my neighbour chose the cheapest option. The following photographs show the effect of this short-sighted thinking. First thing in the morning, this is what I saw:

This shows the garden path to the left of the bean plot. At the bottom and to the right is lawn. The bean plot is 10-15cm higher than the path, and this is enough to prevent the water covering the soil. To the bottom right you can see two improvised flower pots. These are 2 litre milk bottles with the top cut off and holes punched in the bottom. I am building a wall to the raised beds out of these 'pots' and each is planted with nasturshums. The greenhouse is to the right. This too is flooded: there is about 3cm of water.

Here's a view a bit further around the path. The bean plot is to the right. To the left is a row of spinach and there is lettuce under the plastic cloche. The netting to the immediate left covers a new row of spinach seedlings, this is totally under water. The bushes in the centre are redcurrants and in front of them is a triangular patch of beetroot (the canes in the picture hold down netting to keep the local cats from using this part of the garden as a latrine). This triangualr area is completely submerged.

In the centre of the picture is the deepest water. This is is approximately 25cm deep. In the centre you can just about see the garden fence. The ground level of the garden behind this fence is about 30cm higher: I am unlucky to have the lowest garden in the row of houses. I have dug a hole at this position - almost the lowest point of the garden - and the water drains to this point.

Here's a wider picture of the garden looking South. To the left is the potato plot, in the centre is the brassica plot (currently half of this is shallots and lettuce) and to the right is the bean patch. To the lower right, under plastic, is lettuce. To the lower left are redcurrants and just behind them is the beetroot patch.

This is not a complete disaster because I have a Draper submersible pump. Although water and electricity normally do not mix, they do with this device. The pump has an outlet, to which you connect a hose; and an electric flex. You can immerse the entire pump! The first time you use one of these it is a bit odd to see an electric cable and a hose coming out of a pool of water. The pump is rated at 120 l/min, and it takes about 3 hours to pump out the vegetable patch. If it was working at 100% efficiency during that time this suggests that about 22,000 litres was pumped (22m3). I think this is far too much. Another estimate can be obtained from the area iof the water: there is approximately 20cm water over about 10m2, or a volume of 2m3. From this I reckon that the pump works at a rate of 11 l/min. Anyway, whatever the rating of the pump, I am happy that it can remove the water.

So as soon as I saw the water I started pumping, after three hours the water was completely removed. Happy with this result I had lunch. Then after lunch, it started raining again. It rained heavily. By the evening the vegetable patch was flooded again. The next day (29th) I used the pump again, and removed the water.

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(c) 2008 Richard Grimes