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Spring Flooding Of The Site - How To Save The Plants?

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Agriculture is one of those human activities whose success is not always directly proportional to the effort involved. Unfortunately, nature does not necessarily act as our ally in cultivation, but often even throws up new challenges. Intensified reproduction of pests, abnormal heat, late return frosts, hurricane winds, drought.... Gardeners never get bored. And one of the springs of recent years has brought us another unpleasant surprise - flooding.

Spring flooding of the site - how to save the plants?
Spring flooding of the area - how to save the plants? © Ludmila Svetlitskaya

Causes of plot flooding

A similar phenomenon is well-known to plant breeders whose plots are in the flood plains of rivers. For them, the flooding of the plot is a common phenomenon, which is repeated from year to year during the floods. But we were completely unprepared for the flood, as in our area there are no water sources.

However, by and large, the flooding of our garden could be anticipated. The suburban area is located in a valley, an additional risk factor - the close standing of groundwater. Because of these features in the spring it was always wet on the dacha, but the soil quickly dried up and there was no serious stagnation of water.

But in one unfortunate year, all circumstances have played against us. In the winter preceding the flood, there was a very heavy snow cover, and in the spring the situation was aggravated by daily heavy rains that did not stop for about a month. As a result, our plot was almost completely under water.

According to the old-timers of our Gardening, what happened that spring in the gardens took place for the first time in the last 30 years. In some places in the garden there were extensive puddles of depth from 10 to 20 centimeters, in some places there were relatively dry islands, but the soil was so saturated with moisture that it looked like a swamp. Plants were in danger of dying.

Spring flooding of the site - how to save the plants?
Wild ducks mixed up the roads in the village with the river during the flood. © Ludmila Svetlitskaya

The consequences of the flood on the property

The total standing water on our dacha lasted about two weeks. After that, the weather finally changed, the ground dried up, and we could start to calculate the losses.

I should immediately mention that due to the proximity of groundwater on our and neighboring plots initially grew a very limited set of tree species. Therefore, mature trees whose powerful roots were already used to constant moisture deep in the ground, endured the flood with minimal losses.

With cherries, plums, mountain ash, dwarf and semi-dwarf apple-trees, walnut, cherry plum and hawthorn, no cases of death were noticed. And such moisture-loving trees as sea buckthorn, hazel, bird cherry and ornamental willow took the flood positively at all. The same cannot be said about conifers.

Only thuja and yew among conifers have increased love to moisture, and common fir and common pine can grow in damp places, but they form a superficial root system and look oppressed.

The above conifers survived the flood. But our neighbors had to say goodbye to the magnificent ten-year-old blue spruce. During the stand of water all the young growths of the tree fell off, then during the summer the needles of the herringbone tree turned yellow and fell off. By the fall there was nothing left but to cut down the dead tree.

Analogously, we lost an eight-year-old Canadian spruce "Konika". There were no adult tall junipers on our plots, but given the negative attitude of these species to excessive moisture, we can assume that they may have met the fate of blue spruces. On the other hand, bush junipers and young seedlings of tree-like rock juniper survived the flood surprisingly well.

From ornamental shrubs, the greatest losses occurred in the ranks of hydrangeas. Ironically, the scientific name of hydrangea hydrangea translates from Latin as "vessel of water". And this plant, indeed, requires abundant watering, but necessarily without stagnant water, which has a devastating effect on the roots. As a result of the flood at our and neighboring dachas, all the tree and large-leaf hydrangeas that were flooded with water died. The only bush of hydrangea, which was not completely flooded, but stood in wet soil, survived the flood by a miracle.

Spires (except for the Japanese spirea), chubushniki and wild roses survived the flood very decently. Weigelas, unfortunately, died completely, as well as hydrangeas.

From the berry bushes, the flood had no effect on currants and humid blueberries, cranberries and cowberries. The latter, because of low growth, were under water completely.

Silenest of all suffered raspberry plots. That summer, our raspberry did not bear fruit and was very sick with fungal diseases, but there was no fallout of bushes.

Vinograd survived, but also suffered very much from fungal diseases typical of the crop.

Spring flooding of the site - how to save the plants?
Not all the plants in this bed have survived the flood. © Ludmila Svetlitskaya

Losses among ornamental perennials are the most serious

The most serious damage on our site was suffered by ornamental perennials. The degree of damage to plants during flooding also depends on the phase in which the plant was hit by the flood. For example, tulips and crocuses at our dacha were actively blooming or standing in buds during the flooding, and we did not see them the next spring. Summer-flowering ornamental onions were just waking up or had not yet emerged from dormancy, and many of them managed to survive, although there were losses among alliums as well.

Hostas also "slept through" the flood. All the numerous collection of hostas on our site were under the water column, but when the danger had passed, sprouts still appeared. Our hostas woke up that summer with a serious delay, however, all of them were alive and healthy.

The most unpleasant surprise awaited us in respect of water-loving shade-producing perennials. Knowing that these crops are moisture-loving gave hope of salvation. But unfortunately, these flowers were the first to give up. The flood almost completely devastated my shady flower beds, killing astilbes, Rogersias, clopogons, wolfberries, bunners and bushwort. So "moisture-loving" is still a relative concept, which in most cases does not imply resistance to flooding.

Like bellflowers, purple loosestrife (some species of creeping clearing surprisingly survived), oriental poppy, coneflower, delphinium, aconite also died in the flood.

Spring flooding of the site - how to save the plants?
This deep hole (one meter in diameter and about a meter deep) helped to save plants in the mix board from being killed. © Ludmila Svetlitskaya

What to do if the site is at risk of flooding?

"You can't argue with water and fire" - says the folk wisdom. Nevertheless, some measures will help to prevent the complete devastation of the site during the spring flooding and minimize losses among plants.

All flower beds and flower beds initially necessary to do elevated. The only exceptions are places where moisture-loving plants belonging to the coastal group are planted.

To keep the soil in bulk flower beds from erosion, you can use ordinary curb bands or decorative low fences, which look very nice. Today, the choice of fencing for flower beds is incredibly wide - you can always find something appropriate to the overall style of the site. After all, in addition to bright fences, you can find curbs on sale, imitating logs or natural stone.

And if desired, retaining walls make and their own hands, for example, it is very effective to limit the bulk beds with wicker, wooden saws or small logs, perform masonry of natural stone.

In order to beat the retaining wall and easily blend it into the landscape, on the edge of flower beds planted climbing plants (butterbur, minted vertebrate, cloverleaf, periwinkle, phlox sloe, low cleanses and other "mats"), which sprawl, descend beautiful cascade.

For details on the creation of retaining walls read the material retaining walls - what are they and how to create them?

Group of decorative or fruit bushes except for moisture-loving (willow, snowball, black chokeberry, blueberry) planted on mound ridges or hills. Of course, to experiment and hope for the best is peculiar to the dacha owner, as well as to any person. But it is still better that the structure of the plot consists of trees that are resistant to flooding.

For ornamental trees that tolerate high groundwater table, some maple species (Ginnala, riverside, ash-leaved), all types of willows, narrow-leaved elk, ash, common fir, fir, alder (ornamental species), birch, lilac.

Fruit trees with high groundwater table included: buckthorn, hawthorn, dwarf apple, plum, quince pears, cherry, cherry plum, hazelnut, walnut.

On growing pears on quince rootstock read article Why I grow pears only on quince rootstock.

Fruit trees which do not tolerate stagnant groundwater (pears, apricots, mulberries, etc.) can be planted on separate mounds or ridges of height about a meter. However, it is important to keep in mind that such planting can contribute to the freezing of thermophilic trees.

From shrubs it is better to give preference to moisture-loving, resistant to flooding: different types of cranberry, numerous varieties of derpen, elderberry and rowan-leaved rowan.

If the groundwater level on the site is not higher than one meter, the problems with the choice of fruit bushes for the site should not arise, because small shrubs do not form a deep root system. But currants, blueberries, cranberries and cowberries will grow best on wet soils.

With the perimeter of the plot, prone to flooding, it is recommended to dig channels (ditches), which can be left unchanged, masked with shrubbery or covered with rubble. Similarly, it is not bad to organize in the garden of dry streams, which will not only perform the function of absorbers of moisture, but also decorate the site. Decorative pond will also be able to take on part of the water in the spring flooding.

Spring flooding of the site - how to save the plants?
Decorative pond out of the banks, taking on part of the water. © Ludmila Svetlitskaya

What to do if the site is flooded

The reason for the death of any plant during a flood is the disruption of the root system breathing processes. Being under the water column, the plant stops getting oxygen and, in simple terms, suffocates.

The probability of death increases depending on how long the plant has been in overwatering conditions, as well as how strongly the soil is moistened. When the bush has been standing in a puddle for a long time, the death of the plant is quite predictable, but if the soil is overwatered but not flooded, the chances of salvation increase.

Most often in flooding the situation is such that there is simply no place to radically withdraw water from the site, as literally everything around is flooded. Of course, if we are talking about serious flooding, when the residents are evacuated, and the water is above the knee, then it is hardly possible to help the plants here. But, fortunately, such natural disasters occur infrequently and only in certain regions.

Often we are dealing with a situation where in the spring the area has turned into a "swamp" and there are huge puddles of varying depths here and there for a long time. In such cases, you can try to at least locally divert water from particularly valuable and fearful of stagnant water crops. For this purpose, try to resort to the following measures.

Dig a ditch around the perimeter of flower beds

Naturally, it will not help to make the soil absolutely dry, but such a measure guarantees to remove puddles from beds, which will increase the chances of plants to survive. Additionally, you can make punctures in the soil near the root system with an iron bar, which will promote the flow of oxygen and make it easier for the plants to breathe.

Build a temporary pond

Such a measure may seem laborious, because "digging" heavy, water-soaked soil is not an easy job, but often saving plants is worth it. Temporary pond, and simply put, a deep and wide hole is better to dig in the place where there is a minimum number of plantings, for example, in the area of the garden, which is usually empty in the spring. According to the laws of physics, water by soil capillaries will rush to the lowest place, making other parts of the garden at least a little drier.

Dig up especially valuable specimens

Specially valuable perennials or young seedlings of trees and shrubs that do not tolerate stagnant water can be dug up and temporarily placed in buckets, basins and other containers, filling them with ready light peat-based soil.

In such hiding places plants can wait out the flood, then be planted again in the ground. But keep in mind that such a measure is not suitable for plants with deep root systems that are difficult to transplant (e.g., oriental poppies), however, leaving them "in a puddle" also means ruining them (and it is still worth the risk of transplanting).

Loosen and sprinkle peat under the plants

As soon as the water has drained away, be sure to loosen and sprinkle dry peat of neutral reaction the soil under the plants, and in those places where you plan to plant (beds, flower beds of annuals).

And otherwise, after the water disappeared, the soil instantly covers very hard crust, with which you have to fight the whole season. This measure is especially important on loamy soils.

Treat plants with anti-stress preparations

Treat all plants with anti-stress preparations ("Epin-Extra", "Zircon", "Immunotsitofit", "NV-101" etc.), as well as make preventive measures.

Particular attention should be paid to such cultures which are susceptible to fungal diseases (raspberries, garden strawberries, grapes, etc.)

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