I have barely watered my backyard now for two summers in a row. My fruit trees are still alive, but the grass is mostly dead. I am left with a large expanse of plain old dirt.
What is my plan? I could spend lots of time and money replanting the grass. I could leave the dirt as is- my dog doesn't seem to mind it. Or I could try and garden in that area. Of course, gardening it is!
I love the book Gaia's Garden. To revitalize the soil, I plan to use their sheet mulch method. This is where you use straw and other organic materials like manure, and layer them on the wet ground. The bugs go to work breaking everything down. What is left is rich earth where once was bare land.
Gaia's Garden also advocates the use of "swales" or straw filled trenches, to trap water for the land. I might try this. I do not get much rainfall, though, so my trenches might not have as good effect as in areas where rainfall is more often.
A special aspect of this book is its inclusion of many charts showing what nutrients are accumulated by specific plants, which plants are good nitrogen fixers, and even charts to help you decide which cover crops are best for your needs. My favorite is the chart on host plants for beneficial insects. I love attracting ladybugs to dine on my huge aphid population.
I also like all the garden layout ideas from Gaia's Garden. Gardens do not have to be rectangles filled with rows. There are other ways that actually use space more efficiently.
I am thankful for Toby Hemenway for writing this book. After the next good rain (in a few months), I would like to get started on mulching my backyard for my own garden.