A waterlogged garden results from soggy soil left in for too long. The excess moisture makes it difficult for air to reach the soil, which prevents the microbes from the decomposing plant material and may result in weed growth. If left untreated, waterlogged soil can lead to other problems, such as root rot or fungal diseases.
Here are some tips for saving your waterlogged soil:
Maintain crop rotations
Rotation is the act of alternating crops in your garden so that no two plants get a chance to take root and produce nutrient-poor soil. When one type of plant withdraws its nutrients from the soil, another crop can immediately take its place to replenish the soil.
Annual grasses such as Timothy, Orchard, and Bermuda are good candidates for waterlogged soils because they don’t produce long-term deposits. However, rotations may also include legumes and other more sustainable crops such as:
- dry-season cereals
Fix Drainage to Absorb Excess Moisture
Mulching with bark, wood chips, or organic material will help retain soil moisture, preventing it from becoming waterlogged in the first place. Add the mulch 2 inches thick to avoid wind gaps and water infiltration problems.
If you have a lot of waterlogged soil, consider an extra step to reduce the amount of water.
You can place a 2- to 4-inch layer of gravel or crushed stone along the bottom of flower and vegetable beds to help with channeling water.
Ditch the weeds
If you have a lot of weeds in your waterlogged soil, the right way to start would be to dig up those plants. Using a spade or garden fork, dig up the weeds and place them in a pile at the side of the garden. Then cover the weed roots with several inches of soil.
It will prevent new weeds from sprouting and reduce the water needed to keep the soil moist.
Repeat this process until the soil is free of weeds. You can add more compost or other organic matter to help with nutrient retention.
Break up the soil with a fork
If the soil is still waterlogged from heavy rains, you may want to try breaking up the soil with a fork. This process helps aerate the soil and allows for better water infiltration, which can lead to less frequent waterlogging.
Start by digging a trench 1 foot deep and as wide as the root zone of your plants. After the trench is dug, fill it with organic matter such as leaves, straw, or compost. Then place a rock or two in the bottom to create a barrier that prevents water from pooling.
Next, place a tarp or other large sheet of plastic over the top of the soil to create a shaded environment for the roots. Leave the plastic in place for seven days, and then remove it.
Add an inch of compost
Compost is a great way to add organic matter to waterlogged soil, and you can purchase it at most garden stores, nurseries, and even some grocery stores. Simply adding an inch of compost will help with water retention, but be careful not to add too much at one time because it will cause the soil to be too wet.
If you don’t have any compost available, try adding aged manure or other organic matter such as leaves, grass clippings, or shredded newspaper. Do not use garden waste, leaves from roadway medians, or parks because these will contain chemicals and be illegal to use in your garden.
Dig in your amendments
If you have been diligent about rotating your crops and maintaining good soil health, there is a good chance that your soil is already in good shape. If your soil is still waterlogged, it may be best to wait until the soil has dried out before adding organic matter.
Once the soil is dry enough to work, you can add organic matter like compost, manure, leaves, or wood chips.
Bury your crops
When the soil is saturated with water, plants develop an alternative root system. This system allows plants to “breathe” by exchanging oxygen and carbon dioxide through their leaves.
To grow crops in waterlogged soil, you must first remove the soil from the roots. You can do this by tilling soil, rolling in a wheelbarrow, or manually with a spading fork.
Waterlogged soil is a breeding ground for disease, fungus, and unwanted vegetation. Luckily, there are a few ways to save your soil from turning into a watery mess.
You can maintain crop rotations, mulch to retain soil moisture, ditch the weeds, break up the soil with a fork, add an inch of compost, dig in your amendments, and bury your crops.