When garden flooding occurs newly planted seeds, plants and nutrient rich soil washes away leaving your garden struggling to survive. Garden flooding can also cause roots to rot and die due to oxygen depletion resulting from compacted soil. Wherever you live, garden flooding can become a serious issue which threatens the health, beauty and overall success of your garden.
If your garden is flooding make sure your plants aren’t being drowned from rainwater running from an arbitrarily placed gutter or other structural runoff which may deliver more water than plants would normally receive being out in the open. If this is the source of your garden flooding redirect the rain gutter to avoid the garden, dig a small trench to channel the water away from the garden or plan to move the garden to a new location next year!
If your garden is flooding due to a nearby water source which has exceeded its capacity, sandbag off your garden plot to help reduce supplementary flooding from taking place. You may want to relocate the garden next season but this type of flooding may not be regular enough to require such a move. There can be an advantage to be near a water source for the gardens health during dry periods, the history of the area will help you determine your best plan.
While the knee-jerk reaction is to jump in to try to save your flooded garden, this is something you should NOT do. Walking on your garden during critical flood stages can compact soil further, thereby further compromising the health of your plants or seeds. You can enter your garden to begin the restoration process once you are able to grab a handful of soil without being able to compact it. Once the soil is no longer able to be compacted, you can begin removing dead or significantly damaged plants which are beyond repair. If there are some plants you are not sure qualify as "beyond repair", leave them, you might be surprised how resilient some plants can be!
If soil and silt has accumulated on your plants, it is best to lightly spritz them clean by using a spray bottle (buy the Auto Mix Hose End Sprayer for the dual advantage of spraying off debris while depositing fertilizer). Make sure the spray nozzle is not on the direct stream setting as this can be too intense for fragile plants to handle and may result in plants being beaten down further. Plants should be sprayed clean with a fine mist to gently cleanse them of heavy soil and silt. It is best to spray plants from approximately a foot away so as diminish spray severity on vulnerable plants.
Once your garden has been properly "cleaned up" you will want to aerate the water-compacted soil to allow essential oxygen to reach the roots of your plants. This will prevent roots from rotting and dying and will help revive plants which are struggling to breathe.
Note: There are plants which can tolerate prolonged periods of standing water, including ferns, perennial astilbes (also known as false spirea) and tropical elephant ears (Colocasia). Keep these plants in mind when garden planning within vulnerable flood areas.
Over the next couple weeks, deposit dirt and/or mulch to plants with exposed roots to add strength and protection from harsh sun rays. You may also want to add a thin layer of compost, slow release fertilizers or plant growth boosters (John & Bob’s Soil Optimizer is a great choice). These supplements will help replace vital nutrients which have been washed away.
Once your garden springs back to normal you will want to exercise caution when watering. Oftentimes, the top layer of soil can be deceiving, appearing dry and in need of water; however, if you dig a little deeper you may find the soil below the topmost layer is plenty moist and the plants do not actually require additional watering. Check to the approximate depth of the roots to find the real moisture level or use a Digital Moisture Meter to determine the need for watering.
Garden flooding can be prevented with a few simple garden supplies. Protect fragile plants by planting or transferring them into covered garden greenhouses. For full gardens or raised bed gardens, you can cover plants with a plastic cover to protect against excess rainfall (buy plant protectors like the Floating Row Cover or Hot Kaps Plant Protectors). Biodegradable paper mulch is especially ideal for protecting and enriching plants suffering from flood damage (buy Rolls Planters Paper).
Note: If you use the container gardening method (most commonly used by those without a yard), you should drill about a quarter inch hole every 2 square feet. Holes should be drilled about 6 inches from the bottom of the container (based on 12-15 gallon containers holding at least 16 inches of dirt).
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