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Dallas Morning News - October 22, 2018

Saturated Soil - What To Do?

At least the ducks like all the water

I’m sure you’ve noticed that is has been raining a lot. In fact, this is wettest I remember seeing the ground - super saturation. There’s nothing we can do about the rain but there are some wet soil management precautions and procedures.

First and foremost - turn off the sprinkler system! Better still - unplug it. You may not know how to work the controller. No more water should be needed on your lawn or gardens for a month or so.

Next precaution is to try to stay off the soil. No mechanical work should be done at all. Tilling is especially damaging to any wet soil, but especially harmful to super- saturated soil. When wet soil is dug in or tilled, the tool causes a glazing of the soil and destroys the tilth and that restricts air movement and biological activity in the soil for quite a while. Foot traffic alone causes compaction and damages the soil. Staying on walks and paved surfaces is especially important in vegetable gardens and flower gardens during these wet times.

If you haven’t applied the fall fertilizer application, go ahead and get that done. Synthetic fertilizer shouldn’t be put on wet ground, but I never recommend that stuff. It is also a great time to do foliar feeding. Moist plants can accept the nutrients and other goodies best in moist conditions.

If your garden soil stays moist most of the time, even during normal rainfall weather, there are plants that can take the moist environments better than others.

Some of my favorite plants for wet soil include the following:

  • Liriope
  • False plumbago (Ceratostigma)
  • Sedges
  • Purple wintecreeper
  • Wild violets

  • Pickerelweed
  • Cattail
  • Iris (Louisiana, Siberian and Japanese varieties)
  • Cannas
  • Elephant's ears
  • Swamp sunflowers
  • Hardy hibiscus
  • Cyperus (Umbrella plant)
  • Papyrus
  • Spiderwort
  • Joe Pye weed

  • Button bush
  • Dwarf yaupon
  • Roughleaf dogwood

  • Yaupon holly
  • Possumhaw
  • Bald cypress
  • Dawn redwood
  • Green ash
  • Willows
  • Mexican sycamore

The above list should be useful but very few plants will grow at their full potential when soil is constantly saturated; however, some trees, shrubs and ground covers are more tolerant of wet sites than others. It is the lack of oxygen in wet soil that damages plants. Many trees and shrubs can survive under wet conditions but will usually grow poorly. They will be more susceptible to insect pests and diseases also.

Drainage solutions are sometimes needed and can be accomplished by altering the surface or adding underground solutions. We will cover those details later but for quick reference there are diagrams and instructions in my book, Texas Gardening – the Natural Way.

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