by Charlene Burgi
After a long, wet winter, June is here providing us with ample rewards for enduring what felt at times like marathon rain. Flowers—both wild and ornamental—are showcasing a bounty of blooms. Fruit trees are laden with cherries, plums, peaches, apples or whatever fruit-of-choice you or your neighbor may grow. Those vegetables planted in the fall are ripe for the picking this spring. Bumper crops of chard, asparagus, garlic, parsley, onions and lettuce have graced the dinner table here for several months.
But there can be a downside to the marathon winter as well. If your garden drainage is poor, plants may have drowned, puddles may have prevented access to parts of your yard, or soils may have eroded. Let this week’s rain be a little nudge to start planning ahead for next winter. The good news is there are things you can do now to improve garden drainage issues in advance of next winter’s rains. Here are a few solutions that may not be as daunting as imagined. The bottom line: Follow the adage to “slow it down, spread it out, sink it in.”
- Start by amending clay soils with rich organic material to allow water to percolate through more easily. This is especially important for those plants that don't like to have their feet wet for extended periods of time.
- Prevent erosion by looking for ways to slow down and spread out rain runoff from downspouts. A curving dry creek bed or series of boulders can serve to slow the flow, while adding beauty and interest to the landscape. Bioswales, or ditches filled with bark, are another way to guide water through the garden while giving it space to slow, spread and sink.
- Consider designing and installing rain gardens to collect excess rain water during the winter. Planted with a colorful assortment of plants that thrive in wetter soil conditions, rain gardens can also be havens for wildlife.
- A French drain may be an option to move ground and subsurface water away from an area where it tends to collect.
- A rain barrel or cistern can also be one part of your plan for managing how rainwater travels through your garden—and for harvesting a portion of this water for later use. Just 1 inch of rain on a 1,000 square-foot roof produces about 600 gallons of runoff. As an added bonus, MMWD is offering a rain barrel rebate up to $50.
The final reward we can reap from one of the wettest winters in MMWD’s records? The impetus to solve any garden drainage challenges before next time!