Flooding causes untold damage to homes and gardens and for houses without gardens, the damage is often far worse. Without a permeable surface through which the water can escape it has nowhere to go other than inside your home or your neighbours’.
With so many people in cities opting to pave over their front gardens there is little escape for rain water, with the gardens that do remain often bearing the brunt with waterlogged soil. Thankfully there are some steps you can take post-flood to rescue your flooded garden and make sure your flowers bloom again, as well as measures you can put in place to prevent damage occurring in the next flood.
Flooded garden plant rescue
In many areas flooding is inevitable and once the flood water has drained, that’s when the real work begins to save your flooded garden. If the majority of your garden is laid to lawn, you will need to be patient, walking on a waterlogged lawn can damage it further and it can take a few weeks to dry out. Rain water will have washed away nutrients in the soil, however, once the flood water has receded these should be replaced artificially with fertilizer to help your garden recover.
Not only are key nutrients missing from flooded soil there is also a lack of oxygen in it. Excess water compresses gaps in the soil and this lack of air causes it to stagnate and prevents further root growth. It can even cause roots to rot.
Many plants get washed away in stormy wet weather and often there’s not much you can do to prevent this. If the remaining plants have been underwater for less than a week there is usually a good chance that they’ll survive. If they remain underwater for too long the plants will drown as air is cut off preventing them from re-establishing their root systems, this is often what kills the plants off.
Fruit trees and ornamentals are particularly vulnerable in waterlogged ground, in many cases if they do survive a flood they’ll often die off during the prevailing months.
Shrubs also struggle if underwater for long periods, and when they do emerge they struggle to put new root systems down in time. Planting delicate varieties on raised ground will help improve their chances. Where higher ground isn’t naturally available creating a mound on which to plant will often be enough to keep them alive. Pruning plants right back is advisable, if they don’t have to support a large amount of foliage they’ll be able to focus on strengthen their root systems. If in doubt, it may be worth taking cuttings in case the plant does die off in the months after the flood.
If you’re growing vegetables you’ll need to find out from your local council if the flood water was contaminated, if it was, you should discard the crop.
The good news for garden lovers is that there are things you can do to limit the damage to your garden when heavy rain falls.
Aerating your lawn is one of the easiest things you can do to prevent a build up of surface water. Over time the soil beneath your lawn becomes compacted, making it more difficult for water to be absorbed into the ground. Aerating your lawn simply involves spiking the lawn with an aerator or a garden fork. The holes should be at least 10cm deep and filled with top dressing or specialist horticulture sand to allow water to penetrate the soil below.
If your garden floods regularly, spike it every autumn. Not only will aeration improve your garden’s drainage it will do wonders for your lawn, too.
Compost is a must. The more compost you have in your garden the better, as it improves drainage by retaining water. Soil naturally gets washed away, especially if the garden is on an incline, so it’s worth topping up your border with compost once in a while.
Paths and paving for parking are commonplace in UK gardens, but remember to make sure the surface is pitched away from the house to prevent water flowing back towards the foundations. Shrubs and borders around the base of the house, this is where you want to use lots of compost, can help prevent a build up of water around the property and can limit the impact of flooding.
Paving over gardens is bad news for flooding; in 2007 the associated damage from flooding was £3 billion. Gardens soak up rain water, but those that are covered with less porous materials like concrete or paving don’t, instead the excess water runs off into the drains, that consequently can’t cope.
If you do decide to pave over your garden pick a permeable surface that will absorb rain water and reduce the impact of flooding. Gravel is the cheapest option, costing around £4 per square meter, and comes in a variety of colours which you can buy by the bag or by the ton.
Brick pavers look like traditional paving but they have little gaps between the interlocking paving that allow water to escape. Aquaflow Permeable Paving costs from £18 per square meter.
Remember compost is your best ally to prevent water flooding your home. Resist the temptation to pave over your front garden and keep some sand bags at the ready, just in case.
If you need help rescuing a flooded garden post your job in our Gardener/Garden Designer category. Up to three tradesmen can contact you to quote and you’ll be able to view their profile pages, complete with customer ratings, to help you decide who to hire.