Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Finally got my catchment basin!

I don't know if it was getting the little cactus (hidden between the rocks), planting the first trees of our future edible forest, or posting Watershed Management Group's sign that did it. But Dan finally dug a shallow catchment basin to direct rainwater from the roof away from the house and to irrigate a patch of amaranth.

For some time we have been meaning to dig up the gravel and plastic that was keeping the rain from sinking in to the ground. Bermuda grass was already coming up where the aging plastic was cracking anyway.  We recently took out the bricks that were trapping the water next to the foundation of the house. Then we scythed the dried grass and piled it in the back for mulch.

This all started with observing the rain and watching where the water flowed or puddled (as they suggested at WMG). Using what he learned, Dan developed a plan that included an edible food forest, and a striking (and edible) burgundy amaranth patch. It would all be irrigated with rainwater redirected with berms and shallow basins. But digging up all that gravel was a little daunting, so Dan decided to do it one manageable section at a time.

First, he shoveled up a layer of gravel...

See how he dug it out in the shape of the basin he wanted. 
Pooh blinded by Dan's farmer's tan.
Wow! Must be at least 13 wheel barrels full of gravel there! 
Then Dan pulled the plastic up. He used his handy-dandy knife to cut along the line where he wanted the basin to go.

Oh, my gosh! Look at that clay and those grass roots! 

We thought nothing could grow under all that plastic and gravel! 
It took some real manpower to break all that up with the pickax. He had to go over it twice to get out all the roots.

When he got done, he could see that the ground was sloping (uneven towards the house). So he had to use the dirt he had broken up to build up a little trail. Then he had to go another round with the pickax. (Dan was careful to avoid the sewer line.)

"Boy, I wish I had that tamper for the trail." 

Finally Dan put down some of that dried Bermuda grass as mulch to keep the moisture in if it rained. (I know, I know. It sounds crazy but we've discovered that this locally abundant grass makes great mulch. It keeps the moisture in our veggie garden and in our baby trees.) See how well the little mesquite is doing with the grass mulch (below)? And no new grass has come in.

Finally got my catchment basin! (Thanks, baby!) Looking forward to planting amaranth in it!

Desert Landscaping: Going Native for Tucson's Rivers