The downside of good rain

with Brownie

RAIN… we complain when there’s too little and stress when there’s too much.

All gardens need consistent water, but when that is heavy rain and for a prolonged period, the conscientious gardener knows that it’s no time for complacency.

So now that we’ve come through the recent biblical deluge, here’s some things you might need to do in your garden as a result.

There’s the usual maintenance type jobs… checking for damaged garden edging, standing up fallen objects, cleaning leaves off paths, unblocking drains, emptying water from containers.

Check on your wildlife too, making sure any nesting boxes are in good order.

Soggy soil means that trees and their supports need checking. Make sure you check any newly planted trees as they may have fallen over or the support stake may be on a lean.

Watch your established trees for a week or two after rains, especially if there are winds soon after. Saturated soils can weaken root systems and they can be prone to blow over. If you notice anything on a lean, you’ll need to take remedial action before it gets worse.

A good idea for next time we have heavy rains is to take a walk about the garden and see where the drainage isn’t working well and water is pooling. These are the spots where you’ll need to make changes and improve the drainage.

Plants with waterlogged roots can also quickly ‘drown’ from lack of oxygen. Yes, plants need to take in oxygen from the soil via their roots, as well as them putting it out through their leaves.

If your soil remains waterlogged for a few days and you’re worried about a particular plant, dig some channels to direct the pooling surface water away.

Also check around your trees and plants to make sure the rain hasn’t washed away top soil, exposing their roots. Recover any exposed roots and put down a layer of mulch to protect them.

If you have plants in pots, check that they haven’t become waterlogged. You’ll need to tip them over to remove the water, then check that the drainage holes are open. If the pot is waterlogged for a few days, it’s a sign that you need to repot with some fresh mix.

Some fruiting plants are prone to fruit splitting – like citrus, pomegranate, and tomatoes – when the watering regime is drastically altered. Keep an eye on them. There’s not a lot you can do except pick and use what you can, and change the growing conditions before the next big wet.

Don’t ignore your compost pile. If you’ve got a good batch cooking, you don’t want it to drown. Turn the pile more often than normal and keep it covered to prevent it from getting too wet if there are follow-up rains predicted.

Ideally, keep off the sodden soil as much as you can so you don’t compact it. A good rule of thumb is that if you leave boot prints in the wet ground that are deeper than the 3-4cm, don’t go there!

This lawn is going to need some TLC

Sinking mud compacts the soil, which further reduces the already depleted oxygen supply in the soil. The end result could be stunted growth and the soil will be slower to drain after future rains.

But, if you must carry on, put down boards to spread your weight over a bigger area so there’s less compaction and the boards will leave a smoother surface for next time… and they keep your boots cleaner.

The rains also mean that pests and diseases are on the march. Watch out for fungal problems with roses, tomatoes, potatoes, strawberries, legumes, zucchini, cucumbers, citrus and leafy vegetables.

Brown spots in the lawn can be a sign of a fungal problem. But best have them checked by a local turf provider before taking drastic action (like spraying).

Grasshoppers, slugs, snails and caterpillars will be on the rampage too – so be vigilant and take action early.

Don’t worry about the mushrooms and toadstools popping up in the lawn and garden mulch, as they’re not indicative of a serious problem and most are beneficial to the soil – just don’t eat any of them, as they’ll most likely be poisonous. Dogs can commonly be poisoned by mushrooms in the lawn, as they’ll eat or play with them. So, it’s a good idea to pick them – wearing gloves, of course – and throw them into the compost or bin.

The vegetable garden will need some attention as the organic content of the soil will most likely be less than it should be as the worms and micro-organisms break it down. So replenish with compost and mulch.

Vege gardens need to be raised to allow the soil to drain

Many essential nutrients are water soluble and so heavy rains means that they end up being dissolved and washed out of your soils.

Main image: Some simple drainage will solve this problem