Well, if there’s something Oklahomans are well-versed on this spring, it’s rain. Most all of the state has seen more than its fair share of moisture the last few weeks. Many years we experience just the opposite, and gardeners must scramble to keep enough water on their landscapes.
Instead of dry, cracked soil, now gardeners are faced with waterlogged soil and plants. Two things can happen when soils become saturated – roots shut down or simply rot, both of which result in wilted or dead leaves, and in some cases, dead plants. Ironically, the symptoms are similar to underwatering or drought. In the case of too little water, the roots become damaged and can’t supply water to the plant when needed. What gardeners are dealing with now, obviously, is too much water and a damaged root system.
Symptoms may be visible now on more sensitive plants, but symptoms may not show up on some plants until after the rain has stopped and the weather turns hot and dry again. When root activity slows or shuts down, the plant growth process will slow or stop. Leaves may wilt due lack of water uptake through the root system. In addition, lower interior leaves may yellow and drop off.
In the case of waterlogged soils, there may not be much gardeners can do at this point in time but wait and hope the plants in their landscapes have some tolerance. In some cases, it might be beneficial or even necessary to install or construct a drainage system. This doesn’t have to be a big, expensive project. A temporary system might consist of something as simple as a narrow trench leading to a lower part of the property. However, if drainage seems to be a constant problem in your landscape, a more permanent system like a French drain or other subsurface drainage system may be necessary.
Be sure to keep an eye on plants in containers, too. While this soil will dry out more quickly than traditional planting beds, plant roots still can be affected. Gardeners can repot their plants to cut down the amount of time plants sit in waterlogged soil.
David Hillock is a consumer horticulturalist with Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension.