Garden flooding

Too much rain in my home garden.

Week of May 20
I barely worked in the garden this week at all. It was a wash, literally. Most of the Northeast experienced steady, heavy rains and Vermont was no exception. Thankfully, the weather was not nearly as severe as in the Plains, although we did experience plenty of flooding and washouts.

My big plans of planting on Memorial Day came and went, as my clay soil was still too wet to work. If you’ve ever made the mistake of handling wet clay, you already know that it will leave you with concrete-like clumps that are just plain inhospitable to plants.

Because I am an optimist, I must always find the silver lining and focus on what I can do when things don’t go my way. Here’s my list of three things to do when heavy rains wreak havoc on your garden.

1.) Make a Map/ Take Pictures: Water can do amazing things. Our garden here at Gardener’s Supply is at the bottom of a downhill slope, so water runs through portions of the display garden paths. At my house, which is flat with annoying low spots, water forms puddles, ponds, and lakes. By mapping the water’s behavior and recording the event, you can start to form a plan for how to fix the problem, make the problem work to your advantage, or to just avoid the problem altogether. This may be your opportunity to design a drainage system or a stormwater runoff garden, also known as a “rain garden.” If nothing else, you can use your flood scrapbook as a reminder to avoid planting anything finicky in those potential wet spots.

Use garden hose to siphon water from low areas

A garden hose — primed with a wet/dry vacuum — makes a fine siphon for low spots.

2.) Create a Siphon: At my house, we often experience standing pools of water when we are hit with heavy and lasting rains; in fact, half my garden became a pond last week. Unfortunately, these pools seem to develop in the worst places, like around the bases of my beloved fruit trees.

To create a siphon, we use a garden hose and a wet/dry vacuum to start the process. One hose end must be fully submerged in the water that you want to drain. Attach the other end of the hose to the vacuum and turn it on to get the water flowing. When you are ready to disconnect, make sure that you place the draining hose end (the one previously connected to the vacuum) in a spot that’s lower than the pool you are trying to drain. Watching the water disappear always makes me feel better fast.

Granular fertilizer

Amend soil with slow-release, granular fertilizer.

3.) Re-amend: Not everyone has clay soil, which along with holding water, also has the capacity to hold on to nutrients. A big concern for lighter, sandier soils is that water washes nutrients away much faster. You might think about working in some granular fertilizer after heavy rains, even if you’ve done so already this season.

Did you experience rain in your garden in May? Tell us about you soil and water problems in the comments.