Did Your Garden Drown?

May 27 2009, 11:09 AM

I have been trying to remain optimistic, weekend after weekend, as the storms have come and wept on Denver. No, I didn't get to go camping last weekend, but I scrubbed my kitchen floors! No, I didn't get to grill out, but I saved my stomach from one too many hot dogs! (And frankly, sometimes one is too many.)

And even this last weekend, when I sent out-of-town friends off to run the soggy Bolder Boulder, I used my tried-and-true optimistic line of "Well, the rain's good for the garden."

But as it turns out after looking at my garden, I'm not so sure that was true. The hail did a number on the tiny tomato leaves. The pepper plant has started to lean, root system exposed and its leaves yellowing. My seeds are still quiet under the earth, not showing a single shoot of green optimism.

All this has made me realize that even in drought-dry Colorado your veggies can get too much water. If you're thinking the same, here's a few ways to tell if your plants are overly soaked and how to avoid plant flooding in the future.

1) Check your plants to make sure they're not sitting in any standing water. Yellow, droopy leaves are a sign that they're drowning. Also, look and see if young leaves have turned brown or their growth has halted.

If you start to see your plants change in appearance, it's probably because water is suffocating them below the soil. The little fellas inhale through their roots, hoping to find gases in the soil. When there's too much water in the soil, they can't breathe in those important gases.

2) Plus, a few ideas for those of us feeling especially protective:

A plant umbrella: If you have seeds or newly transplanted seedlings, create a small cover out of vinyl or plastic to keep them from getting too much water. Once the stalks are about 1/8-inch thick, they should be able to withstand the elements.

Hail to the tomatoes: If there is hail predicted, grab some plastic cups from your cupboard and place them upside down over your smaller plants. Anchor them down to prevent them from blowing over.

Covering Compost: This one got mixed reviews, but generally it's agreed that the water helps compost do its thing. However, too much water can inhibit the digestion process, so if your compost is starting to flood, you can string a small tarp over it. Smart gardeners suggest suspending the tarp over the compost, instead of simply laying it on top, so that your recycled organics can breathe.

Good luck out there, gardeners, and hopefully some sun will dry out our soggy plots before we need to buckle down for another rainy, wet weekend.