What to Do in the Garden with ALL THIS RAIN
Dallas and all of North Texas have experienced nearly unprecedented rainfall this season, with the third wettest September and the wettest first half of October on record. This creates a unique moment in our garden at the Dallas Arboretum, and provides a special opportunity for you to work in your gardens as well!
Main Concerns During Excessive Rain
At the Dallas Arboretum and in your garden, one of the biggest goals and challenges is drainage. If you know a storm is coming, make sure you don’t have a lot of debris in your yard that can block drains, or create flooding. If you see flooding and can get to it, you can work on the soil to help let water drain over the top of soil during “flash flood” type scenarios.
Lawn disease can get very dramatic with lawns being constantly wet or very wet for a long time, like what we’ve had in Texas. Once the wet period has begun, you face the possibility of having to treat the problem. The main disease right now is called Brown Patch, and you primarily see it on St. Augustine grass. You can use a fungicide spray to treat it.
Soil erosion is another big problem during heavy rains. Depending on your yard, the impacts of soil erosion vary, but it’s always going to cause issues. You can lay down mulch, even during a rain storm, to help hold some of your soil. Working on drainage helps too.
Our soil in this region and at the Dallas Arboretum is very clay, so it doesn’t drain well. We’ve taken steps to amend the soil to help it drain better, with also improves the health of our soil. This is a step you can take AFTER the rains have stopped to prepare for next time.
90% of plant disease is caused by soil spattering on plants, something that is obviously much more likely during heavy rain storms. This is another reason to add mulch. A mulch barrier can make a huge difference in keeping the rain drops off the soil to prevent the splatters and protect your other plants.
Additional Steps to Take
Beyond dealing with the impacts of strong, prolonged rain in your garden, there are some other steps you should take this time of year. First, turn off your sprinkler systems! You don’t need to add water on top of this wetness. Don’t turn them back on until you’re sure the rain has stopped.
When these deluges soak the garden, they make the soil incredibly soggy and weak. Heavier plants and big trees may even fall over. We can use this to our advantage. Treat it as an opportunity to attack tree weeds, because with the softer soil, it is the easiest time to pull up those deep weeds by hand and actually remove the entire root system.
When we do get deluges in the garden we attack tree weeds because it is the easiest time to pull them up by hand and get ALL of the root system. After the storm, once the soil has become a bit less sloppy, is also a good time to consider reworking your garden’s drainage or even grade a surface.
Winter is coming and we’re very aware of this in the gardens. Texas has a very short fall, and winter short and inconsistent. At the Dallas Arboretum, this means we have a very short window in which to change the garden from summer to fall plants with time to see them thrive before the first frost or freeze. The rain has shortened this window even more for us, so we’re leaning more on plants that can stay in the ground from fall through until spring, such as Dianthus, Snaps, and mustards.
You can take this same approach in your own garden, looking for hardier plants to get into the ground now, if the rains shrunk your planting window, plants that will carry you through to the spring.
It’s tough to deal with all this rain in your garden, as well as ours. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to help keep your garden healthy now, and opportunities to make it better in the future!