As we enter the second half of the hurricane season when storms tend to move up the east coast, it is doubtful we have seen the end of this year’s rainy weather. That persuades us into the yard and garden to do some wet weather maintenance and storm preparation.
It’s not necessarily extra work. The yard and garden maintenance you’ll accomplish in late summer will help lighten the load of fall chores when the weather finally moderates.
The water from extended periods of rain may already have resulted in waterlogged plants, disease, leached soil, pests and erosion.
Too much water can drown plants when it fills the air pockets between soil particles and cuts off oxygen to plant roots. The result is plant death by drowning.
Here are some conditions that need attention sooner than later during wet weather:
Plants in wet soil may look like they need water—wilting, yellowing and dropping leaves, stunted growth. Check for a sulfur smell in the soil around an ailing plant; root rot may have set in. Look at the roots. If they are black and slimy completely remove the plant and put it in the garbage. In the case of surrounding potted soil, throw that out, too.
Nitrogen leaches out of soil quickly during wet weather. The first evidence of nitrogen deficiency is the yellowing of older leaves. You can help plants with a dose of liquid fertilizer to boost their recovery and follow up with a serving of slow release fertilize.
Cut back healthy annuals to stimulate new blooms; remove those that are spent.
Add compost to the soil. Whatever you added in the spring has likely washed away.
Fill eroded areas with topsoil.
Replace mulch that has washed away.
Prune back shrubs that block windows and pathways.
Elevate pots on feet or plant stands so they can drain more freely.
Avoid walking on wet soil because it is subject to compaction.
As weather dries watch for aphids to show up in force on new growth. Treat them with insecticidal soap spray to keep their population in check. Stay vigilant for other pests.
Be aware that after a prolonged period of wet weather, plants are drought sensitive. When weather dries water them regularly, but do not overwater.
A tropical storm or hurricane warning and watch are signals to prepare. There are a number of measures we can take in our gardens and yards to limit damage. Here are some jobs that need to be done in advance, and some others that can wait until the last minute:
Tree maintenance should be a top priority because fallen trees and limbs cause the most damage in a residential landscape. Call in an arborist as necessary to evaluate leaning trees and remove limbs that endanger your roof or other buildings.
Prune back low hanging branches within easy reach over walkways, patios, carports and driveways.
Don’t apply fertilizer, insecticides or herbicides if a tropical storm or hurricane threatens to move up the coast. Runoff will wash the chemicals from your property into our waterways.
Add topsoil to fill eroded areas back to original ground level around tree roots.
Add topsoil to low areas with poor drainage.
Stake young trees and palms that are not well rooted in for the duration of the storm. Remove stakes when water has drained.
Prune back vines that have grown top heavy on an arbor.
Direct water away from the house in spots where drain spouts empty.
Clear swails and other drainage channels.
Empty your yard of all loose objects that can float or become projectiles. That includes pots, potted plants, hanging baskets, wind chimes, bird houses, feeders, lawn ornaments, yard torches, outdoor furniture, umbrellas, For Sale signs, garden hoses and trash cans.
Harvest remaining fruits and vegetables.
Turn potted trees and large plants on their side. Wedge a couple of bricks against the containers to prevent rolling. Smaller pots can be tucked into a dense hedge.
Make sure garden tools, hoses and trash bags are staged and easily accessible for the cleanup. Have mosquito repellent on hand.
Regardless of what the weather brings, you’ll be pleased with your efforts.
Reach Debbie Menchek, a Clemson Master Gardener, at firstname.lastname@example.org.