By all accounts the start of 2016 has been a miserable time for huge numbers of people living in the UK, floods have devastated many areas, and now a long and arduous clean up operation is underway.
Flood damage to homes can be truly catastrophic, but the effect on gardens can be equally as distressing, particularly if you’ve invested a lot of time an effort perfecting yours. If your home insurance covers flood damage to your garden it would be wise to take photos of the damage before attempting any remedial work, as your insurance may be able to cover some or all of the costs involved.
The biggest issue with excessive groundwater is that it fills the voids in the soil usually occupied by oxygen, and as we all know, oxygen is an essential life sustaining element, in this case for the microbes in the soil or the roots of your grass and other plants.
Helping Your Lawn Recover
Before you start panicking too much it’s worth bearing in mind that grass can last about a week under water without any lasting damage, so if your garden is saturated for less time than this then you might get away without having to do anything besides removing any debris left behind by the flood water.
If the water stays put for longer than a week then first thing first try to avoid walking on it as doing so will compact the soil and give oxygen an even harder time reaching the grass roots. Besides this, walking on the lawn might also break up the grass and leave a muddy mess in its place.
Whether affected by fresh or salt water you may find that your lawn is left with a silt or salt deposit when the flood subsides. In both cases it’s imperative to remove the residual layer, gently scraping it off with a spade and washing it away with a hose.
Once you’re happy that the lawn is free of debris the next task on your agenda is to replace any lost nutrients and to allow air to get in. Use a fork to make holes on the lawn around 10mm deep, allowing air in and encouraging any remaining surface water to drain away. To encourage the grass to keep growing it’s not a bad idea to add a nitrogen based fertilizer to the lawn. If salt water was the culprit of your flood then you should avoid using fertilizers as they often contain sodium, which can cause issues when the salt has already left large amounts of sodium on the lawn.
Saving Your Plants
In the grand scheme of things grass is pretty resilient as far as flood water is concerned, plants on the other hand tend not to be so lucky. If your garden has experienced flooding then you’ll probably notice your plants begin to wilt and even die within a couple of days of flood water striking. Tell tale signs will be the discoloration and curling of leaves.
Once the water subsides the same drill applies as with the lawn in terms of removing silt and other deposits, and be sure to wash the leaves of grime so they can begin extracting energy from sunlight as soon as possible.
As the soil begins to dry it’s a good idea to turn it if at all possible, this folds air into the soil, further aiding with the drying process, and re-oxygenates the plants and microbes in the soil.
Remove any dead leaves or branches to plants, as they won’t do the plants much good at all, and will stop the plant investing energy repairing areas that are probably already beyond repair.
just like with your lawn, use a nitrogen fertilizer (in non salt water flood affected areas) to help the plants begin growing again.