Rainproof Gardening & Recovering After Floods
Many parts of Australia have experienced masses of rainfall and wet weather systems in the past few years, which has led to severe flooding events. Though water is essential for all life on Earth, too much of it can be destructive, not only to homes and infrastructure but also plants in the garden.
We have put together some tips that we hope will help you in the garden during these weather extremes.
Soil preparation is important in wet weather as poor soils and freshly dug soils will easily turn sloppy. Incorporating plenty of broken down plant material such as green waste composts are excellent at improving soil structure which assists with drainage. Many ‘’no dig’’ gardeners have commented on how well their soils hold together compared to when they used to dig or till their garden beds. This is somewhat attributed to the high levels of organic material added over the top of the soil.
Mulch is also excellent at absorbing moisture and can help muddy areas from becoming slippery. It is great in walkways and in-between garden beds. Try a long lasting mulch such as wood chip. Hay or straw contains weeds and will become slippery after a little while.
Some crops tolerate the wet seasons much more than others so it can be helpful to know which ones to focus on growing outdoors during this time. Crops that perform well in damp boggy areas include the following:
Some growing methods are better than others during wet seasons. Try out the following during periods of wet weather:
- Grow in raised garden beds, large patio pots and tubs. When filled with quality soil mixes, they drain much more effectively than garden soil and are elevated from the ground away from run off.
- Hydroponic gardening indoors is ideal as it is not weather dependent. This means you can grow your favourite herbs, leafy greens and compact vegetables and flowers year-round no matter the weather outside!
- Grow in a covered greenhouse or caterpillar tunnel to protect sensitive plants from too much moisture. It is also a great place to raise seedlings as heavy rains can wash away or rot seeds in the ground.
Other Tips & Tricks
- Harvest crops as soon as they are ready. Rain and warm temperatures can cause ripe produce to split or crack quite fast.
- Divert and drain any pooling water as this will help the soil dry out faster and prevent mosquitos from breeding.
- Widen your plant spacings a little to ensure adequate airflow as warm moist conditions will encourage fungal diseases.
What to do if your garden has been flooded
If your property has been affected by floodwaters, it is most important to protect yourself from the hazards that come with floodwater and what they leave behind.
- Firstly, never enter floodwaters. Wait until the water recedes to tend to your garden.
- Before you start digging check with your local council and landcare for information on possible soil contamination risks in your area.
- Food crops that have been in contact with floodwater should not be consumed as the floodwaters may be contaminated with human waste and/or toxic chemicals.
- Always wear gloves and protective clothing to protect yourself from debris that may have floated into your garden. Cuts and abrasions may leave openings for soil-borne diseases to enter your skin. Treat any such wounds with antiseptic as soon as possible.
Once the waters have receded, it is time to get onto rebuilding your pride and joy. Roots can start to die in as little as 24 hours when submerged so it is best to encourage water to drain as quickly as possible.
- Allow the soil to drain, you can help it along by digging trenches to allow water to drain away faster. Adding composted material into your soil will help restore those air pockets and improve soil structure. Sand can also help improve the drainage properties of your soil if it is prone to waterlogging.
- For established plants, remove any silt or debris from the leaves and remove any damaged limbs or foliage.
- Remove and dispose of any food crops that have been touched by floodwaters, this includes root crops grown underground.
- Wet weather also increases the chances of fungal diseases and pest attacks so it may be necessary to treat your plants with fungicides and insecticides.
- Check your soil pH as it may have changed. Before adding anything to your soil, we suggest testing your pH so you know what you're working with. A soil pH of between 6 and 7.5 is optimal for most plants to thrive. However, there are always exceptions so be sure to check what your specific plant variety prefers. Learn more in our fertiliser article here.
- Add a fertiliser based on your soils’ specific needs.
- For new plantings, it is best to wait at least 60 days before replanting, during this time you can work to restore your soil’s structure. Your soil will also be depleted of oxygen and many nutrients may have also been flushed out of the soil so there is lots of work that can be done to remedy the damage.
- While you are waiting for the soil to dry you can get a head start growing seedlings indoors in a Jiffy greenhouse or pots.
- Floods bring lots of awful things with them including weed seeds so now is the time to plan out your weed management strategy so you are ready to stop an invasion. The most popular methods are spraying, hand pulling or mulching, but if you plan to mulch, make sure you wait for the soil to dry out so you aren't helping to trap excess moisture in your soil.
We hope this advice helps you on your path to recovery. If you need further advice, reach out to your local council or landcare group for support, many will be able to assist you with growing advice specific to your area and may even help you rebuild/replant with free seeds, seedlings or saplings.
Mr Fothergill's is supporting flood affected schools and community gardens with free seeds, follow us on Facebook for more information on this initiative.