Too Wet Garden Solutions
Many gardening trends come and go. But a mud garden? It’s not a thing yet. Showing off carefully curated puddles of mud and bragging about stagnant mosquito breeding areas will unlikely top the list of Bay Area gardening trends. While Californians have taken the time to prepare for extended dry periods, few of us are adequately ready to take on a deluge of rain.
Overly wet gardens produce a host of problems. If plants are left in standing pools of water, they can develop root rot. Add to this a shopping list of fungal maladies that can affect your overly wet garden’s health, and we see can see why a soaking wet garden can be a problem.
In this post, you will learn to identify the signs of too much water. We’ll also explore some simple solutions to solve the problems that come with an unusually wet weather cycle.
Signs You’re Getting Too Much Water
Get in touch with your plants – what are the leaves and roots telling you?
Stroll through your garden and touch the leaves of your plants. Losing both new and old leaves is a sign of over-saturation. Along with an overall wilted presence, if you find brown and black tips on the ends of the leaves, that’s an indication there is too much water at the root level.
If you can, go ahead and dig up one of your plants. Examine the root system. If you pull up the plant and the soil slides right off instead of clumping around the roots, then that’s an indication you have oversaturated soil.
When an excess amount of water surrounds the root system of your plants, it drowns out the oxygen supply. Roots need oxygen to absorb water. Standing water acts as a buffer between root systems and the healthy, aerated soil they need to deliver water efficiently.
In some cases, the outer layer of the root will peel off like soggy bark off of a eucalyptus tree. We’ve all removed the outer layer of a green onion when preparing a meal. If your plant has root rot, then the outer skin of the root will peel off in a similar manner. Unfortunately, this is a death sentence for the plant.
Soil Forensics – Dig In and Look for Clues
When water starts to pool, it’s a clear sign that you’ve got an over-saturated garden or lawn. That’s obvious. But what about when there are no obvious pools of water scattered about the yard?
Go digging and examine the soil just beyond your plant’s root systems. Does the dirt crumble easily in your hands, or is it runny and muddy? In some cases, you might even find that the water collects in the bottom of the freshly dug hole.
Solutions to Over Saturation and Flooding
Depending on the severity of your garden’s wet state, there are a number of solutions to help you ride out the flooding. Sometimes the answer can be as simple as adding dry matter. But in other cases, remedying the situation can require elevating some areas of your yard and lowering others to allow water to drain.
First off, preventative steps like not walking through your plants excessively will be helpful. While your plants love a visit from their number one caretaker, your footsteps will compact the soil, making it less likely to drain.
Should the soil be dense and not ready to absorb excess water, try breaking up that solid mud. It is recommenced to dig about four inches deep between rows to help draw the water off of the plant.
Add Drying Agents to Help With Light Flooding
In many cases, a simple fix is adding some hay around the plants to form a light barrier and to protect that valuable topsoil. The hay will absorb small amounts of water and even direct moisture away from your plant’s roots. While a bit unsightly, it is a quick, easy fix.
If you have a compost pile going, dig down and use some of that dryer soil to add as mulch around the base of your plants. Better yet, if you have vermicompost available, those worms will help aerate the soil surrounding your plants.
Sometimes the use of strategically placed rocks will also help prevent soil erosion. The rocks provide a barrier between the elements and the soil-stripping water flow. A drawback is that, depending on the size of rocks, you’re committing a new element to your garden soil. Use in moderation.
If conditions persist you can also build up the height of your garden or lawn over time. While elevating your yard 5 inches may sound like a lot (and in many gardens equal a truck full of soil) if you plan to build up your soil level, just do a little each autumn and winter. In a short amount of time, you’ll have a high and dry garden.
Extreme Cases of Flooding Call for Extreme Actions
If conditions are bad and water is pooling in several spots around your yard, it might be time to purchase a sump pump. Many people on the East Coast and in the Midwest have one ready for flooded basements. A small motor in the sucks water in at one end and out the other. By attaching a hose to direct the excess water out to the street, a good sump pump will prove invaluable in fighting yard flooding.
A more permanent solution is French drains, or “drainage ditch” which doesn’t sound nearly as nice. This system can be dug around your garden to direct the excess water away from your plants. French drains can be made more efficient by installing tubing through the trenches. The water goes into tubes instead of being absorbed by the surrounding soil. Here is a quick YouTube clip to get going if you want to try it yourself. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k7goh7iDCx0 Or we can help you.
A Few Reminders
The longer your plants sit in excess water, the more damage will be done. Act as fast as you can to recover your plants and take preventative steps whenever and wherever possible. And always remember, no matter how much we wish we could, we can’t control the weather. It’s just part of the California gardening adventure we all share.