The rains came and will not leave. Rain is good, we all know that, but too much rain at one time is a problem.
In some parts of our state, bridges are collapsing, and homes are flooding. Thus far, we have not experienced that in North Texas. However, I expect that we will have some repercussions from the excessive water.
My landscape and garden have risen from the dead. Nothing was growing much at all this summer, despite my watering it. Now, the sweet potato vine is growing so rapidly, it is about to swallow my house. This is the good side of all the rain; plants growing and lakes refilling.
The downside is water-soaked soils. The Texas Flood Information website, https://bit.ly/2yz8ciV, has information that might be helpful about how to deal with problems with fire ants, mosquitoes and snakes after flooding. However, it also has information for those of you who have flood damage in your homes or have livestock.
I expect to see damage to trees, lawns and ornamentals because of the flooding and saturated soils. Plant roots need oxygen to survive, and flooding limits the aeration in the soil. Flowing water carries dissolved oxygen, so a few days of flowing water around trees might not cause an impact. However, standing or puddled water is very likely to cause stress to the trees, which makes them more susceptible to secondary problems such as insects or disease.
Also with soils so saturated, if we have high winds, it is not uncommon to see trees topple over completely.
Many of our natives and well-adapted plants will have trouble with this much rain. Some of the plants we rely on to survive the hot, dry summers do not like having “wet feet.”
More subtle damage is the soil compaction that can occur when our soils are this waterlogged. If you can, limit foot traffic (and dog traffic) on lawns or natural areas. In heavy clay soils, like much of our county is blessed with, compaction is a limiting factor for plant growth. Compacted soils limit water percolation, air exchange and root growth.
Another challenge is mowing that lawn when the sun does come out. Grass and trees have the same recommendation: never remove more than one-third of the plant at a time. With grass rapidly growing and limited days of sunshine to get it mowed, it is tempting to cut it back as much as you can.
It might work a time or two, but scalping the lawn causes stress, which makes the turf more susceptible to insects and disease. Sometimes cutting the grass back too far results in removal of the growing tip of the grass and thus death. Be mindful that lawn equipment can also cause compaction.
Trees may lose their leaves prematurely. This is a stress response, but it does not necessarily mean the tree is a goner. We will have to wait and see how the trees do over the winter and next spring.
It has been a stressful year for plants with the heat and drought and now the excessive rain, so talk sweetly to your trees and shrubs and do all you can to limit future stress.
If you would like more information on how to specifically do that or have questions about your plants, contact our Master Gardener help desk at 940-349-2892 or email email@example.com.