What if my plants get waterlogged?

British Summertime. Don’t you just love it?! We’ve all seen a deluge of rain this Summer and whilst we were telling you back in June how to keep your new plants well-watered, we’re now looking at ways and means to prevent water damage for waterlogging.  Rain, rain, rain – great for plants in small doses, not great if it’s all day, every day.  But what can you do? This month’s blog gives you some pointers for drainage around your newly-planted hedging and trees.

Signs your plants are waterlogged

There are several factors that can decide how much damage your plants have suffered in waterlogged conditions.  The time of year (warm weather is more damaging as your plants need more oxygen), the plant variety and the age of the plant will all affect its chances of damage.

A short-term sogginess won’t cause too much damage – it’s the longer term waterlogging that needs to be remedied as soon as possible – even before a few days have lapsed.

Your trees and hedging plants will show one or a combination of these indicators when the plant is waterlogged:

  • Stunting growth
  • Yellowing leaves
  • Twisting leaves
  • Dropping leaves
  • Soft, spongy leaf bases
  • Wilting
  • Dark, pungent roots
  • Lack of flowers or fruits
  • Shoot dieback

How to help your plants in very wet conditions

It’s a fact of life (and British weather conditions) that few garden plants will survive long-term waterlogging or flooding.  There’s nothing worse than plants sitting in saturated ground over a prolonged period to damage their chances of thriving once the water recedes.

In wet and windy weather, your first priority should be trees planted in the last three years. These newly planted trees often have roots that have not developed fully.

Help is at hand!  There are some tips we can offer to try and salvage as much as you can after this Summer’s downpours.  Here goes (get your wellies on!):

Before Stormy Weather

REGULARLY CHECK YOUR PLANTS AND PROTECTION:  Prevent newly planted trees from being rocked backwards and forwards and becoming loose, stake them firmly in place where possible.
MULCHING: Look to see if you are able to improve the drainage of the land in preparation for future rainfall.  Applying a mulch can reduce compaction and soil erosion that can often follow heavy rain.
IMPROVE SOIL STRUCTURE AND DRAINAGE: Avoid compacting the sides of planting cavities in heavy soils, or prick the sides with a fork before planting.
CHOOSE PLANTS WISELY:  There are trees and plants better-suited to wetter conditions, like alder, willow or poplar.
CONTACT THE EXPERTS:  We’re here to give you extra guidance and help in your plant choice.  Use the filters on www.treesandhedging.co.uk or email us if you have any further questions.

After stormy weather

COLLECT DEBRIS: Wash down hard surfaces and collect any leaf litter or clutter that may further block drains and could spread pollutants into the soil.  Leave this until the soil is workable else you risk packing it down and making things worse.

REMOVE DAMAGED SHOOTS OR LIMBS: Give the plant the best chance to focus growth on the healthiest of shoots – but wait until it has dried out

CHECK THE BARK for any abrasion of the stake rubbing againgst it or loose ties. You may need to reposition the the stake or re-tie the ties to prevent further abrasion.

REPLACE DAMAGED STAKES: Ensure the tree remains secure in further downpours.

ENSURE PLASTIC TREE GUARDS AREN’T FULL OF WATER: Where plastic tree guards have been placed around a tree ensure they are not filled with water, by raising its base above the soil level. Also check that it is not so tight to the tree that water cannot escape.

REPLACE WITH TOLERANT SPECIES:  If the tree has died due to waterlogging, replace with an appropriate species that tolerates wet soils, for example alder, willow or poplar.

WATER THOROUGHLY IF A DRY SPELL FOLLOWS: Minimise susceptibility to potential drought stress by continuing to water if a prolonged dry period follows.

We have other blogs that may help you, whatever the weather:

Watering wisdom

Rewilding: Plant to prevent flood risk

Flood and wind damage

Windbreaks and shelterbelts

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