For the past month, we have had warm dry weather intermittent with cold wet weather and mornings where frost has nipped certain plants that we were able to get into the garden. That changed this past week. Now the temperatures are perfect, but rain has become the issue. This past week, we have had a lot of rain that inundated many of what we had planted. The water-logged ground prevent us from being able to plant the rest of the garden as well.
Many gardens in the western United States are suffering from excessive dryness and much has been spoken about what they do about excessive dryness. However, not as much is written about flooded gardens and what to do about it. Therefore, if flooding is an issue for your garden, this post is for you. Many people would have just raised their hands in defeat, but here are some ways that I am dealing with the flooding problem in my garden.
Raised Some Garden Beds
Every year, this time of year, we get more rain than what we can use in the spring. Therefore, because we knew this is a yearly occurrence, one of the things that we did earlier this year was build a couple of raised beds for some of our plants. The tomato plants in those raised beds are doing well and are growing, but the ones along the fence in the main garden were swimming in pools of water. We’ll no doubt be growing more of our tomatoes in raised beds next year.
Dig a Trench
Another thing that we have done is dig trenches the length of the garden bed perpendicular to the slope so that the water runs into the trenches and doesn’t wash the soil off the side of the slope. If soil runs anywhere, it will run into the trenches which is why we took an additional step so that the soil wouldn’t just run into those trenches.
Filled the Trenches with Organic Material
Because the soil is still so cool and saturated, we decided that we didn’t want to put mulch around the plants just yet. Instead, we are adding organic material to the trenches. We use these trenches for pathways between the garden beds. We’ve been using sawdust and a small amount of chicken manure as a sort of water collection system. This way, much of the water that sheds off the land into the trenches is absorbed by the organic material. Any soil that washes off the beds washes into the trenches and mingles with the organic material. The water is thereby stored in the garden for the months when the rain stops which around here is just after Independence Day. The organic material and the soil that came off the beds become food and home for soil microbes and earthworms and incorporate into the soil for future gardens.
No Tiller When Planting in Wet Ground
Often around here, the soil this time of year is so saturated that we are unable to plant using conventional methods once the rain does start to fall in the spring. Therefore, we must get a little unconventional in our techniques.
We do a lot of our garden prepping in the winter when it doesn’t rain as much, and we use a broad fork rather than a tiller. We don’t use a tiller partly because we have clay soil that if worked when wet becomes like adobe. Another reason we don’t use a tiller is that tilling destroys the garden tilth. And if that isn’t enough, tilling brings up weed seeds that have long been buried in the soil. A broad fork doesn’t create any of these problems except when the soil is saturated like it is now, so we have to get even more creative if we want to plant our spring garden in the spring which is our rainy season.
Planting in Saturated Ground
Because our soil is primarily clay, we have started to add small amounts of organic sandy loam to our garden in exactly the places where we need it most and that is on top of newly planted seeds. In some cases, for large seeds like corn and beans, I dig a row in the ground, put in a little organic kelp and the seeds, and cover with the sandy loam soil. Sometimes, especially with smaller seeds like carrots and lettuce, I broadcast the seed over the soil and sprinkle the sandy loam soil over the planted area. The plants come up in a few days.
How about you? What challenge is this garden season bringing to you? Please share your questions and comments below.