I have a half acre or so of space that I am planning to convert into a small yard for my dog (and myself and husband to relax) and am hoping to get some advice on improving water retention in our heavily compacted Western NY soils. We have minimal slope and heavy clay soil that doesn’t stand a chance of soaking up our heavy lake effect summer rain storms. I was initially thinking of putting in narrow swales that we would fill in with mulch and sheet mulch on top of as it’s a smaller area and we’re mostly looking for added water retention in the soil (per the narrow swales shown in Gaia’s Garden). I have also considered just using a spade or fork to poke in and wiggle around to loosen the current soil before sheet mulching to break things up a bit (this option would be a lot less work). Maybe planting a few deep penetrating plants to further loosen the soil from there as the seasons progress.
Does anyone feel strongly that we should put in the extra work of digging a few narrow swales or will loosening the current soil and sheet mulching heavily on top of that be enough? I don’t want to do work that isn’t really adding value if something easier can be done with comparable results.