When our garden flooded last month I was devastated. Of course it’s a small issue compared to experiencing flooding of your house, but I was very upset to envisage all of the hard work I’d put into the garden over the last year going literally down the drain. But I’ve been so surprised by how resilient a garden can be to flooding – if you’re reading this after experiencing a flood and hoping to restore your flooded garden, I hope you’ll be reassured by how quickly ours has bounced back.
Stay off the soil and the lawn until the water has gone
Be patient and allow the water to drain away. Walking on water-logged soil compacts it, making it more difficult for it to recover. If you need to walk across for access, lay planks of wood across, or stepping stones to lighten the load.
Wash the plants
It might seem counter-intuitive to add more water to the situation, but any remaining silt on the leaves of your plants will prevent it from thriving. Wash them down and give them the best chance at recovery.
Rescue any valuable or cherished plants
If you have any plants which are particularly special to you, you can use a fork to dig them up, wash their roots of any silt or debris, and replant in a dry spot, or a pot with fresh compost. For what it’s worth, we didn’t end up doing this, and the vast majority of our plants have survived.
Aerate the lawn
A lawn can stand being submerged for up to a week and still recover. To improve drainage, use your garden fork to create small holes in the lawn – lift it and give it a little wiggle. If your lawn was under water for over a week you may need to reseed it.
You’ll want to add a feed to your grass to restore the lawn. Hold off at least a month before doing so and if the flood occurred after September, wait until March before doing any feeding.
Improve the fertility of the soil
A flood tends to kill lots of earthworms and other organisms that are present in healthy soil – we certainly noticed a lot of dead worms floating about. Once the soil has dried out a bit, add a generous amount of well rotted organic matter to the soil to restore lost nutrients – compost and chicken manure pellets are good options.
Throw away contaminated vegetables
Sadly, any vegetables that have come into contact with flood water should be thrown away as a precaution. We lost our crop of onions, as well as all of the soil from our raised bed. If you were growing veg, research what can be planted at the current time of year and go for that instead. I’ve ditched the onions and replaced them with a crop of beetroot. Now I just need some good beetroot recipes!
Don’t be too quick to judge plants as ruined
One of the plants I was most upset about losing was a jasmine that I’d planted over an archway. It had been doing really well until the flood, showing lots of flowers, and was showing good signs of making a lot of growth this year. It’s a big archway, so the expectation was that it would take at least a few years to cover it properly. But after the flood it was looking decidedly yellow and my hopes weren’t high. I added a good mulch of compost around the base and crossed my fingers for it, and a month on it’s now looking great, with the leaves mostly back to green and as you can see from the picture below, lots of little pink flowers. Give your plants the chance to bounce back!
Add some quick win colour
If you’ve lost lots of the colour from your garden, go for some quick and easy colour by planting up some pots. We’ve added some summer pots to our patio to give a bit of a boost – you can read a little tutorial on it here.
We were lucky in that some remarkably sunny weather immediately after the flood helped the water drain away very quickly from our flooded garden, so the longest any part of it spent under water was 2 days. Most established plants will tolerate being submerged for a day or so, and we’ve certainly found this to be the case. Where we’ve lost plants, it’s been down to them being younger plants, or plants which are more suited to dry conditions – my Russian Sage for example all looks to be fit for the compost heap.
There have been some surprises though – some lavender that was just making a tentative recovery from a previous soaking before the flood actually has a couple of flowers on each plant, and lots of my grasses are looking in pretty good shape all things considered. So if you’ve suffered a flooded garden, don’t despair – it’s likely to be more resilient than you think.