Simple tips to revive your flooded garden

Excess water in the soil can lead to the death of the plant's delicate feeder roots.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

Maryanne Ogeno looked in disbelief at her two trees that were toppled by the recent floods.

It had taken her 12 years to grow the trees, which surrounded her flower garden and perfectly manicured lawn. Even her Zimbabwe grass was almost washed away. The sight was unbearable.

"In all the years I have nurtured and cherished my garden, I never thought I would see such a devastating sight. My trees on the ground! It hurt me. A lot," she tells the BDLife.

Trees are a labour of love and they play an important role in our gardens, providing privacy, shade and beauty. Their premature loss can be devastating.

Antony Mutunga, a gardening specialist, explains that if you notice stagnant water that is lower than neighbouring gardens or does not drain properly, it is a sign that your garden is waterlogged.

"You can tell your garden is waterlogged if the ground feels squishy underfoot. Excess water in the soil can lead to the death of the plant's delicate feeder roots, which are essential for water absorption," he says.

"Nature's rich diversity allows us to grow greenery in all kinds of weather. However, each plant has its own specific needs," explains Mr Mutunga.

"Succulents and cacti thrive in warm, tropical climates, so excessive rainfall can damage them and they need special care.

You can tell your garden is waterlogged if the ground feels squishy underfoot.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

Conversely, vegetables need plenty of water to produce a healthy crop."

Effects of excess water on gardens and plants

Mr Mutunga explains that overwatering can suffocate a plant's roots, leading to root rot. This prevents the plant from absorbing nutrients properly and causes yellow leaves. When the garden or pot becomes waterlogged, plants do not get enough water and air.

"Good aeration and warmth in the root zone are essential for proper plant growth," he says.

Excess water in the garden can also lead to poor nutrient uptake, which can affect root development and seed germination due to poor aeration and warm temperatures. It can also make plants more susceptible to disease and pests.

Similarly, too much water can affect soil quality through leaching, reducing the nutrient content of the soil. Prolonged flooding of soils can have long-term effects, as soil microorganisms that require oxygen can be killed, reducing nutrient availability.

How to minimise flood damage

It's important to be careful about what you do after the flood water has receded, as it can make things worse. Mr Mutunga gives tips on how to minimise flood damage in the garden.

Identify the survivors: Most plants, except seedlings and new transplants, can withstand flooding for up to a week. However, standing water can cause problems. The lack of air in the roots can cause plants to drown.

You can tell your garden is waterlogged if the ground feels squishy underfoot.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

If the foliage appears wilted days after the water has receded, the plant is likely to die from root damage. It is advisable to wait before cutting down a tree that appears dead, as its canopy may leaf out, indicating that it is recovering.

Preparing for the rainy season

Preparing plants for the rainy season requires special care to meet their changing needs.

Mr Mutunga says many factors change during the rainy days, due to changes in outdoor temperature, regular watering and pests that seek out moist soil.

"Giving them a nice, clean pruning before the coming rains will promote healthier growth during the rainy days."

Removing dead and rotten growth allows the plant to focus its energy on regeneration through better air circulation. Pruning is also a surefire way to control the onslaught of fungal diseases in the foliage before the rains arrive.

Check drainage: The best way to prepare your plants for the rains is to start by checking the drainage holes in floor planters. "Make sure each planter has a hole in the bottom because, without a clean drainage hole, most of your plants will rot and die," says Mr Mutunga.

You should also check that the drainage holes are not clogged up with soil particles. An easy way to check this is to stick a stick into the hole; if it goes in quickly, you're good to go, but if it doesn't, remove the plant and change the soil. Also, make sure that all pots are kept on planting trays so that they drain more quickly and the surface remains tidy.

Pruning: Nature often lavishes its love on us in the form of rain, which makes some plants thrive. In such climates, you need to be extra vigilant when pruning your plants during the rainy season, as it is no longer just for maintenance purposes.

During the rainy season, it's important to prune plants carefully to avoid waterlogging and fungal diseases. Remove lower leaves and damaged parts to prevent the spread of infection.

Manure and fertiliser: Heavy downpours can wash away topsoil, which is essential for plant growth as it contains essential nutrients. Whether you use chemical or organic fertiliser, make sure you provide plants with a balanced dose of nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus. During the rainy season, it's important to give them a balanced diet to ensure the soil is not depleted of important nutrients.

Moving pots: Move hardy plants such as succulents and cacti to a sunnier spot. Make sure they're not directly in the rain. Other plants may enjoy the rain, but too much water can cause root or rot, so consider moving them too. Also, keep the planting trays underneath the containers clean to prevent unnecessary mosquito breeding.

Watering schedule: Water is essential for a garden, but it's important to avoid overwatering. Underwatering can make plants dull and wilted, while overwatering can cause the roots to rot.

Soil care: Mix plant soil with garden manure to make a rich potting mix. Fill pots to within half an inch of the rim, leaving space at the top for quick water drainage.

This will ensure that the water does not run into empty spaces in the soil, as there are no empty spaces for the water to reach. Also, loosen the soil as much as possible, as it tends to become compacted by continuous rainfall.

However, Mr Mutunga warns against overwatering outdoor plants on rainy days.

Careen Muthoni, a landscaper, says a well-tended lawn adds beauty to a home. If your area is prone to flooding or there's a low-lying spot in your garden, she says there are ways to minimise damage to your landscape.

"Just like with plants, too much water can turn grass yellow and stunt its growth, especially if the area remains waterlogged."

Excess water in the soil can lead to the death of the plant's delicate feeder roots.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

To protect your lawn from chronic flooding, build a rain garden to collect excess water. You can also install a French drain or water pump to divert or remove water.

You should also keep your gutters clean, as clogged gutters and downspouts can exacerbate flooding problems.

Adding raised beds or using containers to grow plants in chronically wet areas is another way to reduce the impact of flooding on your plants.

"Include water-tolerant plants such as bald cypress, hibiscus, and plane trees in your landscape," she says.

Ms Muthoni advises professional levelling with at least one side sloping to avoid flooding and recommends topdressing with manure and red soil, or C.A.N. to repair flood damage.

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