Water crashes, rocks slide and I’m awed by the power of it all. Gardeners know it’s give and take with Mother Nature, but the recent flooding feels like things are off balance. Now, we are confronted with cleanup chores and it’s worth mentioning a few things to keep in mind as you head out to your garden.
The Center for Disease Control reports that 60 percent of gardeners admitted to emergency rooms are there for hand injuries. Before you reach into your planting beds for cleanup chores be sure to have your gardening gloves on, preferably long ones that also protect your wrists and forearms. Same goes for your feet — wear proper garden shoes that cover your toes, feet and ankles.
In many areas, high waters flooded burrows and dens and animals may be on the move. Keep an eye open for snakes and other new residents as you reach into the small spots in your landscape.
Go ahead and prune damaged limbs and branches now. Any resulting new growth will have plenty of time to mature before cooler temperatures arrive. Broken branches twisting in the wind can do more damage so remove them as quickly as you can.
Rake the debris carried in by rain and high waters off your turf as soon as you can comfortably access the area. Accumulated materials can smother turf causing it to yellow and die back.
Water moves nitrogen through the soil. Many garden plants prosper with additional nitrogen so they may be struggling — but be careful about applying fertilizer. If you still have water standing or flowing on your property do not apply any chemicals that could be carried away and end up in nearby streams. A better approach would be to top dress your beds with an organic compost, or better yet use verimcompost, also known as worm castings.
After you’ve finished your cleanup, consider getting a soil test which is the best way to know your plants’ nutrient requirements. Your local County Extension Office can provide you with free test kits and guide you through the process. It’s worth the effort to know the specific needs of your landscape, especially after flooding has occurred.
The water may have loosened walkways and other hardscape areas. Inspect them carefully as you move through your garden. This might be an opportunity to remove marginal hardscape from your garden providing more surface area that is able to absorb rain.
Many plants, including the trees, in our landscape concentrate their roots within 18 inches of the surface. When topsoil is saturated with water plant’s roots are unable to take up the oxygen they need. As much as possible try to avoid walking near your plants. Our body weight compacts soil particles and can add additional stress to already struggling plants. Also, ensure sprinkler systems and any sources of additional water are shut off until your soil returns to normal moisture levels.
The microorganisms that live in soil are an essential part of a healthy landscape and they also need to recover. If you brush mulch back from your plants you may be fortunate enough to see white fibers or mats. These threads are the fungi that live in a plant’s root zone helping plants take up nutrients from the surrounding soil. These fungi may produce mushrooms at the surface of your soil so leave them alone. Mushrooms are part of the fungi’s, known collectively as mycorrhizae, reproductive cycle.
Managing the water in our landscape is a feat gardeners can never completely master. The best we can do is create a resilient garden and hope to balance Mother Nature’s impact. Weather happens, roll with it.
Absent from their gardens, Kit and Lise enjoy roaming our region exploring the intersection of horticulture and suburban living. More on Instagram @AbsenteeGardener or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.