Drought and flooding …

… Are two sides of the same coin. Vegetation and good soil, and the ground’s natural bumps and contours, act as buffers mitigating wet-dry extremes. We have paved, ploughed, flattened, filled, and scalped our buffers, just about everywhere, so the extremes are getting extreme-r.

Every place I’ve ever lived (even the super wet spots like Florida) has droughts. Every place I’ve ever lived (even the super-dry spots like Los Angeles and Santa Fe) has flooding. To an extent, drought-flood cycles are natural. But in recent decades, human activity such as sprawl development, excess pavement, and the scalped-lawn/leafblower norm of landscaping has exacerbated things.

Each one of us can do our part to mitigate drought-flood extremes by turning the ground back into a sponge. Soil and vegetation (especially robust native vegetation) does this. Small-scale earthworks (berms and swales) can greatly help.

Today at 2pm Eastern time, a Florida expert on native plants (and also on vegetable gardening and on climate-wise gardening) is doing a 1-hour online presentation about rain gardens. These are, literally, just what they sound like: Groupings of plants — and also rocks and other materials — that catch the rain and slow it from running off. Although Ginny Stibolt’s talk is meant for a Florida audience, the principles she covers are applicable everywhere. Simply consult your local native-plant-savvy nursery or Master Gardeners group for specific plant information. Ginny’s talk is at 2 via Facebook Live (on Cuplet Fern Chapter of Florida Native Plant Society’s page), but the recording will be available afterwards if you can’t make it. The live talk will include a Q&A session so I hope lots of folks can make it.

Below, I am posting the original Facebook post I made this morning to promote Ginny’s talk.

And below that, I am posting a Facebook post I made three years ago about drought/desertification. In it you will find useful links. Because, as I said, drought and flooding are two sides of the same coin. And the way to tackle them is start local (as in your own backyard, balcony etc.). Things that work, will spread and scale up.

Rain Gardens:

Rain Gardens! (a powerful conservation tool, and a beautiful landscaping feature)
Catch the Facebook Live TODAY at 2pm, on Cuplet Fern Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society FB page.

“Ginny Stibolt will discuss planting rain gardens in time for Florida’s summer rains. Talking points will include appropriate native plant selections that tolerate seasonal wet/dry patterns. Rain gardens are an important water conservation message as espoused by the St. Johns River Water Management District.”

Ginny Stibolt is a Florida native landscape conservation expert, and author of multiple books. She’s an excellent speaker. If you can’t make the Facebook Live, the recording will appear later on Cuplet Fern’s Facebook feed. Also check out Ginny’s websites Sky-Bolt and Green Gardening Matters.

As environmentalists, we spend a lot of time lobbying the powers-that-be for water conservation. But we sometimes overlook how WE, with our landscaping choices, are a major power-that-be! Our influence is two-fold: By adopting regenerative landscaping practices, we benefit water and ecosystems, AND we influence our neighbors by example.


Most deserts are human-made. And most deserts can be reclaimed as green fertile land. A few years back, I stumbled onto a book that blew my mind. It’s Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond, by Brad Lancaster. Brad, based in Tucson, Arizona, is probably the country’s foremost expert on rainwater collection. He’s a great writer and dynamic speaker. Links to his work appear below.

It turns out that “drylands” are not just in places like Arizona and New Mexico. We are creating them everywhere by destroying the dense, moisture-retaining natural vegetation and replacing it with pavement, buzzcut turf-grass, and isolated ornamental shrubbery.

Wherever you live, human practices are creating desertification.
It is very painfully observable here in Florida where we (used to) get 49 inches of rainfall annually in many places. As more and more of the “juicy vegetation” (trees, shrubs, tall grasses, dense growth of everything) gets paved over or turned into ruthlessly buzzcut turf grass, the land gets browner and browner; the air gets drier. The hydrological cycle is disrupted. The drier it gets, the drier it gets. In systems thinking we call it a negative feedback loop.

The solution on the personal/home/office level lies in creating dense green micro-climates wherever and however you can. It adds up to a difference, the more of us do it. Compost; mulch; cultivate & allow natural vegetation to grow in its natural density.

Right in my neighborhood, I can see two very different microclimates. One is an empty lot of buzzcut turf-desert of grass, now brown and sparse. And at the other extreme, an example just down the block, I see dense green ferns and dune-daisies growing in a vibrant emerald clump. Neither one gets watered by humans, and yet the latter persists in being green and healthy despite this drought.

There’s a lot you can do, and it’s pretty simple, and it makes a difference. Let’s restore the hydrological cycle; reverse the desertification. If it helps & inspires you to do so (it does me), you can think of it as sort of a people’s mobilization to create a modern version of the Victory Gardens of WWII.

Recommended reading: Brad Lancaster book and website – Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond
Also check out Brad’s video channel on YouTube — the one I usually show to new audiences first is his 16-minute TED Talk “Planting the Rain to Grow Abundance.”