What to do if your garden is flooded

April 7, 2018

Flooded Gardens: What to do next

2018 has been an unusually harsh year for gardens with a combination of cold temperatures and heavy snow late in the season. However, just as gardeners are preparing for the arrival of spring, there’s been yet more bad news with days of heavy rain.

The downfall has been so heavy that many gardens simply haven’t been able to cope with the water, and plants have been destroyed. If your garden has felt the effects of the recent wet weather, here’s what you should do next.

Don’t dive in too soon

Once the clouds have passed, your immediate instinct is probably to get stuck into your garden to try and salvage as much as possible. However, by taking action too quickly you could do more harm than good.

The structure of the soil can be irrevocably damaged if it’s handled when waterlogged. This includes digging it over or walking on it; it’s far better to avoid both.

Wait until your garden has dried out before starting to repair the damage and the end result will be far better.

If you have a plant that you’re absolutely desperate to save, as an emergency option you could dig a drainage trench around it. Make sure you only walk on paths, or lay down boarding to preserve the surrounding soil as much as possible. However, be aware that although digging a drainage trench may save that plant, it will compact the soil and cause problems elsewhere.

Clear away the worst

Once the water logging has subsided it’s time to get your tools out and start tidying up your garden. Even if you’re the type who’s normally happy to get their hands dirty, you should protect yourself with boots, overalls and gloves when working with flood water. This is because all kinds of contaminants can be found in the waste water.

Before you start any real gardening, clear away the flood debris. If you have any hard surfaces give them a good wash down to scrub away any nasties.

Once it’s all clear, move on to your plants and greenery. Aerate your grass with a fork, to promote further drainage. The holes should be evenly spaced and deep enough to be visible. For even better drainage, fill the forked holes with grit or horticultural sand.

Clear away any effluent from the surface of your soil before covering it with a layer of well-rotted compost. This is particularly important if the water was standing for some time.

Unfortunately, if you have any fruit or vegetables crops that hadn’t been harvested, these will need to be tossed away as they’ll be potentially contaminated. You’ll also need to be careful with your herb garden for at least a year; don’t use any of the herbs without cooking them first.

Prepare for the future

Just in case you experience a flood again in the future, it’s a good idea to reconsider the planting in your garden. Roots help to improve soil drainage so it’s helpful to have as many as possible at regular intervals.

Trees are especially effective in improving drainage and are often used by the Environment Agency for exactly this reason.

Some plants are better than others at coping with being waterlogged. If there’s an area of your garden which you suspect will be affected more than others, try planting violets, flag irises and willows as they’re very hardy plants.

Finally, keep an eye on weather warnings and if any are issued for your area, act fast. Pick unharvested crops, board up sheds and put netting across ponds to protect the fish. Elevate anything which could contaminate the flood water and dig out drainage around trees and large plants and you might just find the damage isn’t quite as bad as you fear.