Can You Dig Up A Flower Bed At 50 Degree The Effect of Flooding in Soils – Part 4

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The Effect of Flooding in Soils – Part 4

Flood Management of Affected Lands

Building on previous articles on the effects of flooding on your vegetable garden, this article reviews soil management.

Conditions you are likely to find after a flood

  • Flooding can cause loss of mulch and leaching of nutrients.
  • Rising floodwaters can cause a crust to form on top of the soil or deposit a fine layer of clay, which can prevent oxygen and water from penetrating.
  • Some soils, especially those with a high clay content, can compact and form a surface crust after heavy rains and floods.
  • Shallow water can stagnate and heat up quickly in hot conditions, which is likely to cause the rapid death of any plants growing in the shallow water.
  • Flooding can also cause soil-adsorbed or locked-up nutrients to be released, causing years of accumulated weed seeds to germinate.
  • All these effects require management.

When can you start repairing damaged floors?

While the soil should not be tilled until most of the excess water has drained away, in some cases soaking may continue, particularly in sandy or clay soils where there is a pan or perhaps a shallow impermeable layer of clay just below the soil surface. If this is likely and drainage is impeded, resulting in a high groundwater table, adding gypsum to the area can help.

To monitor the depth of the water table (in areas not far from the surface), dig a hole when the soil has dried to the top 60 cm or 2 ft to measure the level of irrigation. If some areas remain wet for several weeks, we recommend installing drains or removing the water with pumps.

How to deal with flood damaged soil

  • It is very important not to cultivate soil that is wet or very moist. Cultivation can pulverize the soil, damage its structure and cause compaction.
  • When the soil dries (at field capacity – you can tell by rolling a ball in your hand, which should just start to crack after rolling), it can become hard. If this is the case, or if a crust has formed, light cultivation may be necessary to break up the compaction and allow oxygen and water to penetrate.
  • If replanting is necessary, it is recommended to add soil additives such as manure, gypsum or compost beforehand. Spread straw mulch or compost into plant rows to reduce crusting and improve water penetration, drainage and aeration of the soil profile. Compost, manure and organic mulches will encourage beneficial fungi that counteract root rot.
  • Where the soil is flooded, it is very likely that additional salts will rise and accumulate in the top 20-30 cm (1 ft) of your soil. This can be seen by the formation of a white crust on the surface of the soil. If you have plants that are still growing, they may begin to wilt or show signs of leaf scorch. This is a sign of high salt levels. One way to overcome this is to use gypsum (calcium sulfate). It will make the soil more friable, improve soil structure, allow more oxygen in the soil and help displace salt. It should be applied at a rate of 50-100 kg/100 m2 (4t/acre at the above rate) depending on the severity of the problem. For best results, rub lightly into the floor surface as it dries.
  • The time after which it begins to work varies depending on the quality of the gypsum used. It may need to be reapplied after about 6 months.

Weed control

The number of weeds in your crop will affect its ability to recover from waterlogging.

Weeds compete for water, and the small amount of residual nitrogen and other nutrients causes waterlogged areas to often become quite weedy. Once the area dries out a bit, it is important to remove these weeds as they will carry diseases that affect crops such as tomatoes and potatoes.

If you remove them before they go to seed, you can lay them on the surface of the soil so that they decompose over time to form a mulch. Be careful not to pack them too thick, as they will need to use up some nitrogen from the soil to break down.

In summaryfacilitating drainage, removing weeds, replacing lost nutrients and using soil amendments will help restore your soil to a fragile healthy state.

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