Saturated Soils May Need Gardeners Help to Dry Out

Kali Zammit, Schmit, Rene G.  |  1/22/2013 9:12:48 PM

January is typically a wet month for our area of Louisiana during winter time. However, the amount of rainfall occurring during the first few weeks delivered a substantial amount of moisture above and beyond what would be considered normal. The above normal rainfall created a situation where lawns and landscape beds became heavily saturated causing soils an inability to drain effectively. Even with the milder temperatures and sunny days that have occurred over the past week, the high water table in combination with heavy surface moisture has impeded the ability of soils to drain and dry out at a normal rate.

As moisture is an important component to a plants performance and overall health, too much moisture as well, can create problems. A wet soil, especially when water remains at a high level, can influence most any type of landscape plantings to become stressed. When soils become saturated with water, the pore spaces in the soil, which normally hold air, are replaced with water. If the soil remains waterlogged for an extended period of time the roots then become unable to breathe and the roots literally drown. Plant root systems that are unable to breath adequately often will lose vigor, wilt, turn yellow, become stunted or eventually die. Simply put, a root system that stays wet for a long period of time is given the perfect opportunity to develop a sick root system.

In landscapes where bedding soils are in need of drying out, gardeners can help the drying process by hand fluffing the mulch in their landscape beds. Fluffing should be conducted twice weekly over a 2 week period to ensure for an optimum evaporation to occur. Another simple method would involve removing the mulch totally from around the plants and waiting one full week before replacing the mulch. The latter option often provides for quicker results but tends to be more tedious than the fluffing method. In regards to saturated lawns, the best advice is to wait until the soil has significantly dried. Traffic occurring on wet, mushy lawns involving the use of lawn equipment, terrain vehicles and even walking can contribute to compaction and low and uneven areas to develop after drying.

Rene’ Schmit is the LSU AgCenter County Agent for St. Charles Parish and can be reached at 985-785-4473.

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