Rain, rain go away, come back some drier day.
There seems to have been an abundance of precipitation hitting the ground lately of both the snow and rain variety. And while we have flooding, we are nowhere near the amounts of water levels that are plaguing other areas of the Midwest.
Over in Nebraska and Iowa they are scrounging to get enough hay together to feed what’s left of their livestock, being that their own supplies were mostly ruined. Many neighboring states have had countless donations of hay and feed that are being sent that way to help get them all back on their feet.
In the case of gardening, when it rains it is beneficial, if it doesn’t rain too much. Most plants that are established perennials, trees, and shrubs can handle a temporary situation of standing water. But newer plantings don’t always adapt so well. This is similar to if you have ever overwatered a potted plant.
You go to the greenhouse and pick out a beautiful plant, bring it home, and proceed to water it daily, even if it has rained all day. After a few days the leaves begin to wilt. Wilting is common of plants not receiving enough water, but also typical of plants receiving too much water. But if you don’t realize this, you water it some more.
Then the leaves begin to yellow. At this point there is still a chance you can save your plant. You can dump the entire pot out, remove the waterlogged soil, and replace it with new potting mix that isn’t already saturated. Replant your plant in this mix, and only water it when the soil actually is dry.
I have always done the stick your finger in to the soil down to your knuckle. If it’s dry, water. If it’s wet, leave it alone. If you repeat this practice every few days, your plants should be able to survive any moisture issues.
However, when your plant is not in a pot, but an entire field what can you do then? Most farmers end up losing that planting and either having to wait until the soil dries out, then replanting or just letting that piece of ground go for the year. It’s one thing if I mess up in my garden and have to replant, but it’s a whole other ordeal if you are a farmer and have to repurchase seed, plow again and everything else to prep your soil again for planting.
There are sections of my gardens that do reside in lower spots of the yard. In those areas if it gets too wet, I can usually give it a couple of days to let the water recede. If it doesn’t go down far enough due to the ground already being waterlogged, I can go to the feed store and purchase some wood shavings and top dress my planted areas with a few bags.
Wood shavings are pretty absorbent and will help to pull that excessive moisture away from your plants. Once the shavings are soaked to capacity, I scoop them up and move them to my compost pile to break down organically there. If my ground is still too wet, I can add more shavings and repeat the process until it is to my liking.
Now we all know, come July and August, that we will be wanting it to rain — especially when we are dragging water hoses everywhere just to keep plants alive. If you want to avoid that chaos, you can always buy a bunch of cheap sponges (I get them at the dollar store) and cut them up into ice cube sized pieces. Whenever I plant, I just tuck a handful under the area where the roots will be and then continue planting the item.
Sponges work well in absorbing extra moisture, and then they can release that liquid when the plants roots need it. The only downside is that it looks a bit different when you empty your planting containers in the fall.
Hopefully the rain will slow down and we can have a week or two of sunny days to dry things out and help get the ground back where it’s workable again.
Sacha Burns is an organic gardener and owner of Sunkissed Organics in Pinola. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.