Water in the Garden

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Water has been something of a headliner in Britain this year. Too much water covering the soil and most plants will drown but what about the soil itself?

If, like some of our clients, your garden is in a high water table area, you may find the winter rains bring a period of standing water to your garden. Or your concern may be for the flooding that you’ve suffered this year and the effect it will have on your garden and the plants not just in the short term, but next year.

Standing water is a term more scientifically used to describe a permanent feature, for example, a brackish water pool in a peat bog (dystrophic standing water, if you’re interested in the scientific definition). The standing water can be a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) if providing a habitat for interesting or rare fauna (animals, including invertebrates) and flora (plants). For example, standing water which is classified as eutrophic water is very rich in minerals, plant and animal life. Many of these are large lakes and are worryingly under threat from pollution, especially from the over use of agricultural fertilisers which then seep into the water.

The term standing water also covers the small pond in your garden and the reservoir that was at very low levels this spring and is now full. You may not be bothered about your pond lapping at the lawn edges but you may well be concerned with the longer term effect that those other puddles of standing water in your garden will have on your plants, from the lawn to the apple trees.

If you have well-drained soil, the water will find its way through even though it takes awhile. And because your soil is fundamentally free-draining there should not be too much damage to your plants and lawn in the longer term. So those of you on a light, sandy don’t need to worry about the plants drowning. However, you do need to worry about the nutrients being washed away with all the excess water. Plan to add plenty of organic matter (OM) once the threat of standing flood water has gone. This will improve the overall water retentive equalities of your soil as well as replacing those essential Nitrogen, Phosphorous and Potassium (NPK) minerals needed by all plants.

Those of you with heavy clay soils, the sort that sticks to your wellies and might be better used to make pots than grow carrots, have a problem. NormallyI wouldn’t suggest going near your wet clay soil with a spade, but this is one of those times when you should. If you have any choice plants that you really don’t want to lose – and assuming we’re not talking about a 30 foot tall tree or a well established shrub – then digging it up for the short term is a solution. Put it in a pot with some good, peat free potting compost so it can, quite literally, breathe again.

Next look to your soil and the worms living in it. Why worms?

Extract from eBook –worms…
“Worms are brilliant. But why are worms so important? Briefly, their burrowing in the soil to move around creates channels for air to circulate and water to drain through. Some of the tunnels can be a few feet deep, this especially important for those who garden on heavy, clay type soils as such deep and constant activity really improves the soil quality. Plants need air at their roots in order to breathe and they need water; soil air and soil water fit in the spaces between the soil particles. Worms help to create those spaces and maintain them.”

And worms can drown in standing water. You may not be able to rescue them individually, but by planning to add plenty of OM to your soil once the floods subside you’ll give them a better chance of survival next time. And those worms who survived the overdose of water will thank you for the yummy worm food which OM is by helping to spread it through your soil; which is of course good for your plants too.

If you have a wormery, and you know that a lot of rain is forecast, it is a good idea to provide a cover as even worms in a wormery may drown (I have seen this, not a pretty sight). A slightly raised waterproof cover is best, as a tightly fitting plastic tarpaulin could suffocate the worms if you forget to remove it.

There are many reasons why you might have a problem with standing water in your garden; from an underwater stream to next door’s extension and huge patio. We can help with resolving the issue, beginning with a consultancy or advisory visit and possibly progressing on with a redesign to include raised beds and rain gardens.

Marie

Our eBook “In Your Winter Garden with Plews Garden Design” would make a great present – downloads are available for kindle, iPad, & PC on Smashwords and Amazon

For garden advice visits or design and planting ideas drop us an email with your needs: info@plewsgardendesign.co.uk

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