Don’t you love it when it rains?
… and hate it when it rains TOO MUCH?
All gardens need adequate moisture but periods of heavy rainfall, storms and runoff can bring you a truckload of challenges including:
- waterlogged plants;
- leaching of soil nutrients;
- erosion; and
- pest and disease problems.
Garden Design & Management Tips to Minimise Problems
I’m into ‘designing out’ problems whenever I can … so a bit of thought and planning can help reduce the impact of water-based problems. These are some of the strategies I use in my garden to help avoid these issues …
- Good Drainage: Elevate your garden by planting in raised beds or mounds that will prevent waterlogged plant roots and anaerobic soil. Grow in containers and use vertical systems such as window boxes, topsy-turvy planters, wall mounted or railing planters, pots on ladders and plant stands which all drain well. Another alternative is to use pots on wheels or castors so you can move them around to a more sheltered position.
- Dig a Trench or Swale: Rather than wasting valuable rainwater in heavy downpours and paying for water when it’s dry, harvest it by redirecting water to where you need it most. Swales are a useful Permaculture design feature and are especially useful if your garden is on a slope. By building swales on contour, they passively harvest water by slowing it down and allowing it to sit in a shallow trench to soak into the soil. They are also useful for harvesting water for thirsty food plants like bananas and fruit trees which can be planted on top of the mounds.
- Add Organic Matter to your Soil: Adequate soil humus holds moisture like a sponge where the plants need it and is a buffer to plants under stress. A good soil structure helps the excess moisture drain away. It’s even more important to add organic matter like manures, leaf mould, grass clippings, compost, lucerne and other mulches to heavy clay soils that become waterlogged easily and crack when dry. Adding gypsum to heavy compacted clay soils will help break them up.
- All Tied Up: To reduce the risk of common diseases during wet weather, support plants with stakes and ties or other vertical structures so the foliage is not lying on wet soil. Growing vertically increases airflow around the plant and avoids overcrowding.
- Give Pests a Hard Time: Slugs and snails thrive in wet weather and I’m not going to make it easy for them to feast on my plants so using tepees and growing vertically makes it an uphill climb deterrent! If slugs and snails have to climb a high rise for breakfast, they’re exposed so it’s much easier for birds to see their next meal! I also sprinkle crushed eggshells around the base of delicate seedlings – the sharp edges are like a ‘bed of nails’ for their soft slimy tummies and extremely effective at keeping them away until young plants are established. Baked on a tray in a slow oven for 10 minutes, the eggshells become very hard and crunch perfectly into large shards in your hand (I keep a container of these handy for all new seedlings – wet weather or not!) I know there are beer traps you can make but heck – why waste a good ale when you can use eggshells instead?!
- The Magic of Mulch: A layer of mulch helps you take advantage of free rainwater as it helps retain vital moisture in the soil. Other benefits are that it also reduces splashing which encourages plant diseases and prevents soil erosion by providing a buffer.
- Slow Release Fertiliser: Feeding your soil with trace rock minerals and slow release granules, pellets or powdered organic fertilisers will help retain nutrients in your soil and replenish those lost to leaching during heavy rain. The more humus you have in your soil, the less leaching will occur as it helps bind minerals.
- A foliar spray of liquid kelp/seaweed or fish emulsion is a good standby tonic to help plants bounce back quickly.
- Harvest Your Food Crops Regularly: Pick edible plants promptly in humid wet weather because the longer produce stays on the vine or stalk, the higher the likelihood of spoilage, pest attack or disease.
- Water Management Practices: As a general rule particularly in humid weather, avoid watering plant leaves. Splashing creates a breeding ground for fungal spores (which cause mildews and mould diseases) and can transfer them from one plant to another.
- Design IN a water feature: If you have a natural low-lying area in your garden, collect the run-off and harvest water rather than letting it escape! Add a simple pond and plant or move water loving plants into that zone so their roots soak up the moisture and leave plants that like dry feet alone!
What sort of water issues do you have in your garden? How have you resolved your problems? Learn how to restore a waterlogged garden; read some helpful garden maintenance tips or check out some clever design ideas! Thanks for stopping by.
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© Copyright Anne Gibson, The Micro Gardener 2010. https://themicrogardener.com. All rights reserved.