How to Help Our Gardens Survive
by Sandy Swegel
I went out into the garden yesterday for the first time since September 10th. I’m sure you heard of our flooding in Boulder and the Front Range area of Colorado. Back on September 11th, it started to rain here. That Wednesday started as a welcome rain day…a break in the busy-ness of the harvest season. At the end of a day of a record breaking 1.09 inches of rain, we signed happily, “We needed the moisture.” But that was the last normal day as one of those freakish “perfect storms” parked right over Boulder and refused to budge. We got 72% of our annual rainfall over the next few days. No good reason….the storm just wouldn’t move on. It’s normally harvest time and we’re busy trying to get our tomatoes to ripen before killing frost. Winter squash are fattening. We often have to do a lot of irrigating because irrigation ditches have long since dried up. Newly seeded greens and root crops are developing for Fall harvest.
No regular harvests this year. Farmers are advised not to sell anything fresh out of the floodwater soaked fields unless it’s bleached first. Kinda ruins the whole organic thing. But we are harvesting lots of compassion and empathy for other areas that have flooded and a new understanding for people who live in rainy areas. We’re still full of fear and suffering over losses of home and field and livelihood, but ever so grateful for those who have gardened and farmed in flood before and shared their wisdom.
On the most mundane level, I understand the Pacific Northwest garden in a new way. Peering into my sodden compost bin with sheets of rain pouring in, I suddenly understood what the lid was for…to keep water out.
I understand my father’s south Louisiana garden a little better. You have to have really high raised beds to grow in because the water table is right at ground level.
I am so grateful to the the farmers and scientists of North Dakota and the Midwest. Our ag college is daily emailing info on how to treat soil and crops and trees based on what they learned from the floods of 2011 in North Dakota and 2008 in the Midwest. Nothing like 10 feet of water and mud in our own basements to really understand those pictures that come across the TV whenever the Mississippi River floods. But now we know how to help our trees and plants survive.
I flashback to images of mudslides in California and understand why we have to plant slopes for erosion. A few plants don’t stop the entire mountainside from repositioning, but they can really help absorb and slow the water from steady rainfall. Once our 100-year Creek flood got going, it just took entire trees and the three feet of soil under them, but in other places, plants and grass meadows kept the topsoil from floating to Kansas. Sorry, Kansas. Think of this and remember to seed your wildflower meadows and your cover crops;
We’re still in shell shock, but it was hot and sunny yesterday and the forecast is good today. Any day now, we are going to join the millions of farmers and growers throughout time who finally wipe the mud off their brow, tear open a seed package carefully saved from floods, and plant again.