Heavy rainfall followed by flooding not only causes damage to buildings and homes, but can also affect plants in the garden. Unfortunately, there is little that can be done to save a garden that’s been flooded. The extent of most flood damage plants in the garden is dependent on the time of year, duration of flood waters, plant sensitivity to garden flooding, and type of soil the plants are growing in.
When plants are exposed to standing water for long periods of time, the roots can suffocate and die. Toxic compounds can also build up in saturated soils inhibiting photosynthesis. thus slowing or stopping plant growth. Additionally over-saturated soils also favor fungal growth.
Flood damage to ornamental plants from rising water generally is not as extensive as with vegetable crops. In addition, dormant plants are more tolerant than actively growing plants to flooding. Newly planted seeds and transplants may not survive even short-term flooding, and seeds may have washed away.
Resist The Urge To Replant Immediately
Give the soil a chance to dry out first. Most flood damage plants in the garden does occur from standing water that’s lasted for several days or even weeks. As long as the water recedes within a few days, most shrubs and trees will normally bounce back with little to no damage. For some plants, a week or more of flooding can cause severe injury and death, particularly for vegetable crops and tender herbaceous plants.
How to Save Flood Damaged Plants
Most flood damaged plants cannot tolerate standing water for any length of time. Try to encourage the draining of any excess water from the garden by digging ditches or furrows. After flood water has receded, you may wash the silt or mud away from the leaves. As long as weather permits, and the air remains dry, much of this debris will fall from the plant on its own. Then what is left can be hosed down.
As more favorable conditions return, watch for signs of die-back, but don’t be too hasty to prune everything. Branches that have lost leaves aren’t necessarily dead. As long they are still green and pliable, chances are the leaves will regrow. Remove only limbs that are physically damaged or obviously dead. A light fertilization may be helpful to replace nutrients that have been leached from the soil.
Prevent Flooding of Plants
If there’s enough time to prepare, say for a hurricane, you can normally dig up some of your most prized plantings and put them in containers to keep them from being flooded. Container plants should be moved high enough so that flood waters do not reach their root systems. Since soil type is an important factor with regard to drainage patterns, amending your current soil may help reduce the impact of garden flooding in the future.
Keep in mind that sandy soil drains much faster than clay-based soils, which remain wet for a longer duration. Plant in raised beds or create a berm to divert excess water away from trees and shrubs. If possible, avoid planting in areas that drain slowly or remain flooded after a heavy rainfall. If your soil is subject to standing water, it is best to plant species that are tolerant to wet soils or just use potted containers instead.
When storms or flooding damages your trees and landscape, call JC’s Landscaping for help cleaning up or repairing your garden beds, trees, shrubs, as well as mulching and fertilizing.