They called it the storm of the century. Nearly 4 inches (10 cm.) of rain fell in the span of a few hours. When I arrived home, not only did water extend across my backyard, but also the backyards of the neighbors on both sides.
I hardly had time to think about my garden as 12 inches (30 cm.) of water stood against my barn doors. My horses, dog, cats and ducks were inside. As I peered through the barn door window, everything was floating. The dog was standing on his raised bed, front paws on top the feed barrel as he tried to stay dry.
I knew I had to act fast and evacuate the animals. As I pushed open the doors, water standing against them poured inside the barn. Sloshing through the deep water, I worked fast and soon all the animals were safely outdoors and on higher ground.
It was days later, before I noticed the damage to my backyard and flowerbeds. Our focus had been on pumping away the water, then cleaning up the wet soggy mess in the barn. Now it was time to take stock of the damage to our plants.
Worst hit were the plants that had been submerged. The lawn took a beating. Parts of it had remained underwater for several days. When the water finally drained, the grass was coated with mud. There was no saving it. We had to reseed large areas of the backyard.
The flowers near the barn were also victims. My blazing star, dianthus and blue fescue had been underwater and now showed signs of water stress. From dark spots on the stems to brown and wilted leaves that eventually dropped, these plants succumbed to their water damage.
Some plants took longer to die. It wasn’t until the following spring that I noticed the hyacinth bulbs planted in front of the barn didn’t emerge. My azaleas in the same location also faltered. While azaleas do like moist soil, their shallow hairlike roots don’t tolerate soggy conditions.
Fixing and Prevention
Another victim of the flood was the yew that was planted in a raised bed alongside the barn. It didn’t die, but the soil in the raised bed had become unstable due to water saturation. After the water subsided, the shrub was leaning. This shrub was the same size as other the other yews in front of the barn, so my goal was to straighten it rather than replace it.
When conditions were more favorable, hubby and I carefully dug around the shrub. We gently pulled the shrub straight and backfilled dirt around and under the root ball to level it. We then staked it to prevent it from leaning until the roots became established again. It was a lot of work, but the shrub survived.
That “storm of the century” was nearly twenty years ago. Since that time, we’ve dealt with multiple incidents of flooding. In 2017, we installed a drainage system to help carry water away. Yet, each year it seems we get more intense rainstorms.
In talking with my neighbor, we both agree on the cause. Global warming is changing our climate. Sadly, this means my backyard flooding is apt to get worse in the years to come. As a gardener, my long term solution is to adapt by planting water-loving species in flood prone areas of the backyard.