The first steps in reestablishing a healthy lawn require stabilizing your transformed environment. After the floodwaters have receded the landscape will be covered in thick silt and it may have a raw sewage-like odor, which indicates a lack of oxygen in the soil. Many plants will look dead. Will these plants survive? Plants that have shown good survival after two weeks under floodwaters include most native trees, shrubs, perennials and hardy bulbs. |
Salvaging a flooded landscape can be economically feasible if you have the time and patience to let your plants return naturally.
Flooding suffocates your lawn. If the flooding is the result of a Hurricane storm surge, salt water deposits a load of sodium on the lawn grass that can kill it. If water sits on the soil for longer than a week or two, it can become "hydric", meaning that all of the air is squeezed out of it, making it fit only for aquatic plants and mosses. Most flooding is not so severe, however, and it is possible to rehabilitate the lawn. Your objective will be to get the air back into the soil and "mitigate", or relieve, any toxicity in it. Remove fallen trees and debris to allow sunlight to get through to grass roots. Stay off the lawn until the ground is solid enough to support movement. Heavy equipment and excessive foot traffic can tear up plants and create a muddy, silty mess in lawns that would otherwise be lightly damaged. Bacteria and chemicals carried by floodwaters must be removed before re-planting can proceed. Soil composition may also be severely altered. Fertilizer will certainly be washed away. In the meantime, aerate the soil to get air and sunlight to struggling roots. Refrain from using a high nitrogen fertilizer on trees and shrubs at this time. Take a soil sample if possible to determine is fertilizer is needed. Flooded trees and shrubs have undergone a shock and may be experiencing a forced dormancy.
Methods of reestablishing lawn grass will depend on the degree and type of damage done by flooding. Cool-season lawns in northern states may be temporarily over-seeded with perennial ryegrass or tall fescue. Overseed with ryegrass or bentgrass in warm-season areas. Recovering lawns can be fertilized and overseeded in fall. Heavily damaged lawns should be cultivated, fertilized, rolled and re-seeded---or sodded--in fall. Mow frequently and water deeply to encourage re-establishment of lawn grasses and discourage weed growth. Remember, if you are dealing with a flooded lawn, wait until the soil is sufficiently dry.
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