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What to do if you have a wet garden 10 Dec 2015

With the many extremes of weather that we have endured in recent years have come devastating floods.  Once the damage to house and home has been addressed, many are faced with having to completely re-think their gardening schemes perhaps because everything was washed away or because a high water-table means that totally different plants are called for.

In conjunction with the consumer magazine, "Gardening Which?", the Environment Agency has produced a very helpful booklet "Flooding in Gardens" which is available free of charge to anyone.  Call the Floodline number 0845 988 1188 for your own copy and details of other booklets available.

We will happily advise on suitable plants for the more soggily endowed gardeners amongst you and help you address the use of planting as flood defence as well.  Willow. Poplar and Alder are all excellent first choices and will make the most of any excess water.

What can I do to modify my garden to adapt it to high water-table conditions?

  1. Create raised beds.  These will lift the plants' roots above the water level, but they shall still be able to access the moisture by capillary action through the soil (ie the water will "wick" up through the soil to the plants).
  2. Consider planting new trees, shrubs or plants in raised mounds of soil.  A tip we often reccomend is to use an old car, van, lorry or tractor tyre laid on top of the ground and then to fill it with a soil/sand/stone mix  and plant into that.  The tyre can be masked either by mounding the soil around it and sowing with grass-seed, by encircling it with split-log garden edging roll or by stone facing.  As in the raised beds, this lifts the plant's roots above the standing water and it can then send its roots as far as it needs to access the water, without the risk of them rotting away in the sodden soil below.  Choose the size of tyre according to the diameter of the stem/trunk of the plant in maturity as the bead of a tyre (the part that sits inside the wheel rim) is a ring of steel that will not give or expand at all if the plant grows larger than the hole in the middle of the tyre and so could strangle the plant when it becomes fully grown.  If not sure, cut through the tyre beads (or the whole tyre) with a hacksaw or angle grinder and the tree will be able to grow without hindrance.
  3. If you have a larger garden, you may be able to consider some more major landscaping, adding new topsoil and sculpting this into changes of ground level which will give you drier areas in which to plant. Maximise the opportunities that this could present and use the lower-lying areas for introducing plants that have become specialised in wet habitat and creat a bog-garden.
  4. Create a pond and use aquatic plants for new colours and opportunities.  You will recognise the adoption of the maxim "if you can't beat them, join them"!

What if my garden isn't always wet?

Then your plants may well cope with the conditions you suffer over winter periods.  You can consider better management of the water when it does arrive, such as by improving the drainage locally (ie in the parts of the garden that are worst affected).