Too much rain

Too much rain

Submitted by <p>By Eileen East</p><p>Penn State Master Gardener</p> on Fri, 07/27/2018 - 12:48

Rain: Too much or not enough

We just came out of a drought that had us running for our soaker hoses. Now it seems like monsoon season in Carbon County. The ground is saturated and the air is full of water. The minute the rain lets up, we have fog.

How does our garden fare with all these extreme weather patterns? It depends. Some plants have strategies for reducing water loss when there isn’t enough rain. Some can store water in fleshy roots or leaves.

Likewise, when it rains too much, some plants can deal with saturated soil. Others suffer as the roots can no longer take in oxygen and release waste gasses back into the soil.

The longer the soil remains saturated, the more chance there is for root rots and fungal infections to damage plants.

Garden vegetables and landscape plants need roughly an inch of water a week. They like a loose loamy soil that drains well and allows air to replace water that drains away. The best soil holds enough water so plant roots can seek it out as needed, but not so much that the air pockets fill up. We like to say the soil feels like a wrung out damp sponge.

When rain falls continually as it has these past few days, garden plants need the excess water to drain quickly, ideally percolating down to the water table instead of running off into creeks and rivers.

Over time, the best way to get good garden soil is to add at least an inch of compost in spring before planting, and again between each successive crop during the growing season.

Then mulch with a good organic product like arborist wood chips, shredded fall leaves or straw.

However, if your garden isn’t draining properly right now, you need to take action.

Route the water away from the plants. Use a shovel or trowel to create a channel next to the garden rows. Make sure the channel is lower than the row and is lower on the end where you want the water to run off.

Drive a fork into the soil at intervals and wiggle it back and forth to loosen the subsoil and help the water percolate down.

Keep garden paths mulched with wood chips to help soak up runoff.

Use stakes and supports to keep plant material up off the ground.

Be careful to only walk on garden paths. Keep off garden beds and lawn so you don’t compact the soil and exacerbate runoff.

If you have drainage problems, a good long term solution is to raise your planting beds. Then next year you won’t be out in the rain diverting water.