What To Do With a Waterlogged Garden

When Mother Nature blesses you with too much rain, you’ll be ready for her.

When Mother Nature swaps gentle showers for nonstop soaking rains, you might wonder if you did something to annoy her. Could it be botanical karma for those nights you vegged out after work instead of tending to your garden? When you love your plants, it can be hard not to take a waterlogged garden personally, but don’t worry! This doesn’t have to be the end of your growing season.

In fact, your garden may bounce back stronger than ever. (See, it was a blessing!) But, you need to know what to do. So if too much rain has turned your lush garden into a droopy mess, or the meteorologist says a monsoon is on the way, use these tips to prepare, recover, and relax knowing your wet garden is going to be just fine.

Watch the Weather

You can’t control the weather, but you can stay a few steps ahead by keeping a close eye on the forecast. Precipitation patterns can change quickly in warmer months, so unless you have an Aristotle-like sense for meteorology, check your local weather source regularly. If extensive or heavy rains are predicted, spring into action.

Protect Your Plants

Before we dive in, a little reminder that you are the most important part of a growing garden. Don’t run out to cover your plants during a downpour. Prepare for not-so-sunny days while the weather is good, and store everything you might need in one convenient place so both you and your plants are protected. Here’s what to do:

  • Tidy up the garden. Pick up any sticks or branches, make sure tall or spindly plants are well-supported, and untangle any plants that could drag each other down in windy conditions. If there are fruits or veggies ready for picking, harvest those while you can.
  • Leave mulch in place. Check that your mulch is evenly spread and several inches deep so it can help absorb water. Just make sure to keep it about 3 inches away from plant stems so air can still flow through.
  • Move container plants. Shelter smaller potted plants indoors, under a covered porch, or in a shed or garage until the wet weather has passed. If your containers are fixed or too heavy to move, consider rigging up a canopy or wrapping them in fabric (more on that below). 
  • Cover small plants individually. Use upside-down buckets, clay pots, bushel baskets, metal bowls, or containers bound for recycling to protect individual plants in your garden. Make sure they’re large enough not to squash anything, and place a stone or brick on top to keep them from blowing away.
  • Cover large sections or entire beds with sheeting. Set aside items you can use to quickly cover in-ground and raised bed gardens: Plastic tarps, heavy-duty trash bags, or old shower curtains can be placed between your plants at soil level (not on top of them) to help prevent flooding. Gather stakes, twine, rope, rocks, or bricks to fasten or weight them down. On the flip side, you may need to elevate the cover to accommodate taller plants. Consider adding a hoop house if you know this season will be unusually wet, or create a makeshift canopy by tying a tarp to dowels, posts, or a nearby fence. Remember to tilt it slightly so water doesn’t pool on top!
  • Wrap vines, shrubs, and small trees. Reduce damage that high winds and pelting rain can bring by wrapping burlap or sturdy fabric around vines, shrubs and small trees. Use twine or rope to hold it in place, but make sure to remove the fabric as soon as you see drier days.

Restore Your Wet Garden

After the rain has (finally!) passed, remove the protective items. Take care not to let any water that may have collected run back into the soil, and keep from walking on any wet, muddy areas around your plants—you could compact the soil or damage delicate roots that surfaced in the rain. Move any of your container plants back to their proper homes. Then, walk the perimeter of your garden to check for water-related problems.

  • Wet, muddy soil and mulch. If high winds were involved, mulch might have been thrust toward your plants’ stems. Push it back so that sunlight and air can get in. If your plants are standing in water, try to channel it away from your garden by carefully digging a 1- to 2-inch deep trench with a spade or trowel. This can help prevent root rot, diseases, and pest problems.
  • Exposed plant roots. If mulch and soil were washed away, gently cover any wet, exposed roots with a lightly moistened soil mix, like Miracle-Gro® All-Purpose Garden Soil, to protect them from drying and give them a nutrition boost. If your container plants didn’t make it indoors, check their drainage holes to be certain they’re not blocked, and look for exposed roots or compacted soil. Add Miracle-Gro® Moisture Control® Potting Mix to replace lost soil, add nutrients, and discourage weeds while ensuring maximum soil drainage.
  • Plants that look droopy, damaged, or drowned. Plants trapped in a wet garden will start to wilt because their roots can’t grow, since water has replaced oxygen in the soil. Give your damaged plants loving care, followed by some “alone time” to recover. Within a week after the rain, once the plant is dry, prune broken stems and remove any brown, mushy, damaged leaves. You’ll make room for new growth and reduce conditions that might attract disease. Many stressed plants will bounce back. If a plant doesn’t start to show signs of recovery after about 7 days, it’s best to remove it from your garden.
  • New, uninvited pests, like slugs and snails. Wet gardens invite pests. Inspect your plants regularly for them, as well as signs of disease, like mildew, spots, rotting or wilting. Remove decorative items, like stepping stones or boards—they provide a consistent damp spot for pests to hide. To fight disease and aid recovery, spray any affected plants every 7 to 10 days with Ortho® Insect, Mite & Disease 3-in-1 Ready To Use (following all label directions). It’s garden-friendly and can be used up to a day before harvest.
  • A bumper crop of weeds. Excess water can give weeds a jumpstart. Don’t let them invade! Take advantage of damp soil for easier pulling, then spread fresh, dry mulch to help prevent new ones (remember to keep it 3 inches away from plant stems).

Once your soil is workable again—it should be moist, not muddy—you can restore any nutrients that were washed away by excess water. Work Miracle-Gro® Shake-’n-Feed® All-Purpose Plant Food into the first few inches of soil, following the label directions, to give them a boost. Strong, well-fed plants will be better equipped to stand up to the next bout of inclement weather.

 

A waterlogged garden may be disappointing, but the sun always shines again! It will look a little better each day. After all, plants—and the gardeners who grow them—are pretty resilient.

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