Garden Gotchas to Look For after a Big Rain

lawn grass flooded with heavy rain

Nobody wants water in their yard where it isn't supposed to be, be it floods, rising groundwater, or something entirely different. There are a few things you can do, though, to prevent these issues from having devastating consequences on your yard. In order to know what you need to do, though, you will first need to know if your yard has drainage issues.

Beyond drainage issues, there are a few other common problems that may affect your yard. Here are a few things you can do to test your garden and better understand it, and therefore improve it.

Dig a Hole

Dig a hole in your garden about 20 to 25 inches deep. The hole does not need to be very wide. Once your hole is completely dug, fill it with water. Put a board or some kind of marker at the top of the waterline.

Wait until the next morning to go back and assess how much water is still in the hole. Do not do this on a day that is raining as this could throw off your results.

When you go back to check the hole in the morning, if the water hasn't drained at all, your yard may have drainage issues that require professional attention. If it did drain, you're in the clear.

As a general rule of thumb, soil that drains less than one inch per hour has too little absorption and is most likely heavy in clay.

If you have a large yard or a yard with varying types of soil, you may need to do this test more than once to test different sections of the yard.

Soil Nutrient Test

hand holding soil testing device in garden dirt

Soil testing generally looks at 17 elements deemed necessary for the growth of healthy plants, such as carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, and oxygen. These tests look at the amount of each of these nutrients found in the soil sample, indicated as an index rather than an exact amount.

Missing nutrients can be supplemented with fertilizers, but which fertilizers are best for your garden depend on which nutrients your soil is missing. If, for example, your garden is low on nitrogen, manure or fertilizers with ammonium are great options to boost the nitrogen level in your soil which will help you grow vegetables and other plants in the future.

Soil testing can also help you understand which crops will do best in your yard given the makeup and limitations of your soil. Gardens that are high in hydrogen, for example, are usually good for large plants to grow in.

Soil Quality

You can assess the quality of your soil in other ways as well. Beyond the nutrients, you may also want to understand your soil's water-holding capacity, organic matter content, and soil porosity. You can test for these things as well, which again will help you understand your soil's limitations, anything you may need to do to improve the quality of your soil, and what plants will best grow in your garden.

Soil Looseness

metal drill testing soil density on dirt ground

To test how compact your soil is, you will need to use a compaction tester. Your soil needs to be tested at a depth of at least 36 inches to ensure accuracy. The compaction tester has a rod that should move down through the soil. If your soil is highly compacted, it will be hard for the rod to move down.

Drainage and Texture

If you don't want to dig a hole in your garden, you can grab a handful of soil and squeeze it. If your soil has a high clay content, it will get squishy and go between your fingers but hold its shape after you release it. Materials like loam, meanwhile, will fall apart when poked and prodded. Sandy soil, on the other hand, has a gritty texture and will fall apart easily in comparison to the other soils.
Compost, manure, and some types of fertilizers can be added to help soil either hold water better or drain more quickly depending on what type of soil you have.