Gardens do have the capacity to bounce back after a drenching, but a few minor changes to how you garden and what you garden with, will have a massive effect on coping with this extreme weather.
If your garden has been flooded and water from drains has polluted your plot, it's best to check with your local council about cleaning up the garden. 'Bio-waste' sounds dramatic but it's best to be safe. Once everything has had the OK, you will be faced with squishy lawns and cracked pots.
Keep off the lawn
If the soil is sodden the best thing you can do is to keep off. If you trample on wet soil it will compact further, squeezing more air out so roots will not penetrate. Give it a day or so before working it over.
Hard surfaces, paths and patios should be swept clean and made safe from slippy residues. If using a pressure washer, be careful and quick. They pump out a lot of pressure and you don’t want gallons more water running into soil and rivers.
As part of your clean up make sure all drains are clear of debris. Whenever sorting out a flooded garden always wear gloves.
Root crops and anything you eat raw are best discarded after flooding as there’s a small chance of contamination. Ideally it's also best to wait a couple of years before growing root crops in the same soil. All other crops should be washed and cooked before consumption and if in doubt, check with your local council about contamination in the flood waters.
New shoots on shrubs can be show damage quite quickly after a flood. Simply cut these off down to where live buds are present.
Once the soil is dry enough to work (a good indication is when it doesn't stick to your boots when you walk on it) get your garden fork out and break up any crusted top soil. Avoid plunging too deep around plants to avoid damaging roots, but any air you can get into the soil will be welcomed by root worms, fungi and bacteria.
Whilst the soil is naturally improving it can be a good idea to apply foliar fertiliser to leaves of sickly plants. This will get essential nutrients into the plants, giving the struggling roots time to recover.
Some plants survive flooding better than others. If your garden soil continues to stay wet then have a look at:
- Liquidambar styraciflua: the best tree for superb autumn colour
- Cornus alba: for brilliant stems in winter
- Hydrangea paniculata: who doesn't love a hydrangea in full glorious flower?
- Phyllostachys: bamboo is tough.
- Hosta: lovely leaves thriving in soggy ground.
- Zantedeschia aethiopica: exotic and ideally suited to wet conditions
Plants in containers can be repotted into fresh compost if everything is completely sodden and beyond repair. If it’s the active growing season be careful and quick about this as roots are easily stressed.
Once repotted, put the container away from strong sunlight for plants to settle.
Flood-proofing your garden
If at all possible, sort out better drainage – this is often a professional project and will need contractors and surveys, but could save your garden. Build raised beds to lift plants above the flood line. It may never happen again but if it does, flood water will not reach your plants.
Work that soil to create a crumbly, well drained structure. Organic matter cannot be underestimated as a soil improver. It can take time but all your efforts will pay off. Choose you plants carefully and avoid flood sensitive specimens if your garden floods! Grow with nature and not against it.