April Showers Bring May Flowers…and Floods?

It’s pouring right now in Pennsylvania. It’s the kind of rain that makes the worms come out and try to swim across the driveway. (What’s up with that?) It’s the kind of rain that if I was in New York City today I would absolutely not be able to get a taxi, and I would be soaked from head to toe. (Believe me, it’s happened.) But it’s springtime, and this truly is the rain that nourishes the plants, the animals, and the tadpoles soon to be born.

Rain is a good thing. Sometimes I get annoyed when people complain about the weather: “It’s too cold!” “It’s too hot!” “It’s too dry!” “It’s too wet!” and there are maybe two days a year—one in spring and one in fall—that everyone agrees are absolutely perfect. I love almost all weather (except some in the dreary February and March months). If it’s raining, I want to be home in my pajamas listening to Dar Williams or Stan Rogers and drinking tea.

But more and more it seems rain like this brings massive flooding—especially in places like Fargo, Iowa, and all over the Midwest. Flooding has increased even here in Pennsylvania—especially along the Delaware River. Is it global warming? I actually think it’s something else…

One of the findings of the Farming Systems Trial at the Rodale Institute, comparing chemical farming to organic farming, is that organic soils can hold much, much more water in them. Organic soil is like a sponge. As a result, organic crops are more productive and resilient in floods, and in droughts, too. It turns out that using chemicals on soil—whether it’s on a farm or a lawn—destroys the ability of soil to absorb water. Every one of us, by the way we tend our backyards and grow or buy our food, has the ability to make flooding much less likely.

So this spring, please skip the chemicals aisle at your local nursery. Cancel your ChemLawn contract. Buy organic foods and make your yard and garden an organic haven. And then, just enjoy the rain!

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2 Responses to April Showers Bring May Flowers…and Floods?

  1. Faith Zerbe April 4, 2009 at 10:57 am #

    Thank you Maria! Great connection with flooding and organic soils and something we need to consider with our agricultural practices…not to mention hard pan issues from large industrial machines compacting soils in our ag fields… As humans continue to sprawl and pave over our farm fields and forests and convert them into housing developments and strip malls, we also increase the amount of rain running off of these human-made hard surfaces (our driveways, our house roofs etc), which increases and prolongs flooding over time. Let’s treat this runoff and rain coming off our roofs as an asset and not a liability and help our neighbors downstream by using rain barrels and redirecting this very important water to our gardens for use during the hot and dry times or to allow for infiltration into the soil to replenish our groundwater aquifers…let’s start farming on our roof tops, using flower barrels along city streets, and creating very beautiful green roofs…so many options for farming even for those of us in the city who have limited land to dig in! thanks for your words!

  2. Julia April 5, 2009 at 10:44 am #

    Can we also put a good word in for less lawn and more native flora? And while we are at it, why don’t towns and states put in plants that don’t need mowing (or chemicals) and help erosion control (like vetches) in all that space in medians and alongside highways…

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