Many of our friends in North and South Carolina are surviving a major disaster spurred by Hurricane and tropical storm Florence. No doubt many have cultivated gardens prior to the storm. The latest events surrounding Florence reminds us that flooding due to hurricanes occur every year and that there are a large number of gardens that need to be restored after flooding.
Here are some tips on how to restore gardens after flooding to help the residents of the Carolinas and of other states that may suffer such an occurrence in the future.
Take A Moment
Of course, plants need water. However, they don’t need the overabundance of water they get with floods. If roots are exposed to too much water for a long period of time, then their plants can die. Toxins and fungi can build up in very wet soil and all that water makes it nearly impossible for plants to grow. Take heart. If you have well-established perennials that are dormant for the winter months and the flooding doesn’t last too long, plants may survive. The plants that get the worst of it are commonly vegetables and seedlings.
First take some time off and wait for the water to recede. After the water has ebbed, wash the mud off the leaves of the plants to allow photosynthesis.
It is then important to observe your plants for signs of stress. Plants that suffer this feature yellow or wilted leaves or exhibit early fall color.
Preparing A New Garden
No doubt you will have to replant some flora. However, first consider how to prevent flooding from damaging your plants in the future. Reflect on the causes of the flood. For example, did it occur due to something occurring around your home?
Things that come to mind include gutters that clog and water overflowing on to the garden. Cleaning your gutters regularly and adding a gutter cover can prevent this.
You may want to protect your garden with a French drain that will channel water into the soil and away from plants. This is particularly important if your garden has drainage problems. If you want some texture to your landscape, then you can consider adding swales that channels water along a pathway and allows the water to nourish the plants while redirecting water away from the areas that don’t need a lot of water.
If flooding occurs a lot in your region of the country, then it is suggested that you amend the soil. For example, clay soil does not drain very well. Add sand to it to assist with the draining. If your soil is hard and compact, add mulch or compost to intensify the amount of organic content.
A garden already featuring a lot of clay soil, rocks or heavy compacted soil will be easier to work with if you raise the flowerbeds. This allows you to build the soil that the flora need into the beds without worrying about the soil underneath.
After flooding, fertilize your garden with a natural fertilizer to replace nutrients that have washed away. It is also suggested that you add mulch or organic matter to slow release fertilizer to help nourish the soil.
If you commonly get puddles in certain areas of your property, then you can turn those areas into intentional wetland space. If there is a large depression on your land, you can turn it into a pond. Add fish to the pond and use plants that thrive in wetlands.
If your garden is usually damp, install plants that love water including irises and columbines.
If you experience frequent flooding, then add annuals to your garden. This will prevent the flooding from damaging perennials. Put annuals into planters or portable containers so that you can move them when a lot of water comes in.
Other suggestions for rescuing and restoring flooded gardens include:
• Remove rotting plant material.
• Add seaweed to gardens that had been underwater for a long time or are waterlogged. The seaweed can help promote root growth and helps the plant resist stress.
• Plants showing signs of stress weeks or even months after the water has receded probably need a treatment of phosphoric acid based fungicide. A precautionary application of phosphoric acid based fungicide will also be good for the trees.
• Fecal material from pig and chicken farms can be washed into your soil due to floods. Fecal bacteria survive in soil for only a few days, but other pathogens may also be present. It is suggested that you wear gloves, protective clothing, and a mask when gardening. Mulch the garden and do not grow edible plants for at least a season.
• If your garden has been flooded with salt water, use gypsum to help limit the damage. The gypsum will interact to replace sodium or salt with calcium. It is cautioned that you get advice on this from an expert before applying.
• Do not apply fertilizer after saltwater flooding. That’s because fertilizer also contains salt and can cause damage to the garden.
• Remove downed trees.
• Prune damaged branches from trees that have survived the flooding. Prune to the potential new shoot. Be aware that a hard pruning after a storm can add stress to plants so just remove the bare minimum and then return to the project in a week or two.
• Replace all soil saturated with saltwater in pots. The salt could limit plant growth and is unhealthy. You can add compost to rid salt in the old soil.
* Flush a lot of water through the soil to get rid of salt buildup.