by Charlene Burgi
Extreme weather always seems to remind us of similar historic events. With the recent heavy rains, people have been sharing remember-when stories. As a native Marinite, I recall flooding on 2nd Street in San Rafael where my grandmother resided, the time Novato Creek rose to the second story of homes in San Marin, and the year a storm came in from an unusual direction, knocking down trees and power lines all over the county. Mill Valley looked as if a giant came through and played pick-up sticks with the trees.
This year may become one of those that we talk about for years to come. Since July 1, we've received 71.25 inches of rain at Lake Lagunitas—218% of average for this date.
Hopefully you have been spared significant storm damage, but you may still find impacts to your garden. With the high rainfall, soil has reached saturation. As a result, you might experience inefficient drainage. Flooding may have caused a silt-covered garden or extreme puddling. Or the thick layer of bark you just installed this fall may have floated away.
If you have experienced impacts, first work to clear hardscapes such as sidewalks, patios and paths of mud and debris. Next, if you need to step on the soil, lay down planks of wood and step on those to distribute your weight evenly and prevent soil compaction. There is a good chance the flooding may have compromised your soil structure, and nutrients may have leached out. These issues can be corrected over time. The best rule of thumb: Do not work the soil when it is saturated. Wait for it to become friable again—that is, when the soil crumbles easily in your hands.
If you have downed plants or trees, work slowly to remove them from the area. If a favorite plant has been uprooted and it is manageable to handle, move it into a container. If it is too large for a container, wrap the root ball in burlap and bind the burlap in place with rope as a temporary means of maintaining it until the weather subsides this spring. If these jobs are too big for you, hire professionals who have the right knowledge and tools.
Locate the source of any flooding. We cannot control the amount of rain coming from the sky, but we can help control how it behaves on our property. Make sure gutters and downspouts are clear of debris. Check grading and drainage: Grading should slope the soil away from the house, and surface and subsurface drainage should move excess water out to storm drains. If done correctly at the inception of landscaping, you will enjoy years of peace. And finally, make sure all irrigation is turned off!