Dealing with Downpours: Apartment Landscape Maintenance after Excessive Rainfall
Landscapes are one of a property’s most important first impressions, but those that are saturated as a result of non-stop heavy thunderstorms can be damaged by mowing or look shaggy because of excessive growth.
“There’s really not a good decision to be made,” says Chris Lee, president of Earthworks DFW. “There are some properties that can’t be mowed at all right now or there will be significant damage. For others, here are your options. We can leave the grass the way it is and hopefully it will dry out for us to mow effectively. Or we can mow, do the best that we can. However, there’s a huge chance of turf damage or ruts, and it will be unsightly when it’s done.”
Earthworks DFW has been inundated with calls from customers about their landscapes and drainage after record rain has fallen since early March in North Texas. Rainfall totals have eclipsed more than 20 inches, about twice as much as normal. Other parts of Texas and Oklahoma have been swamped by storms that have caused rivers and lakes to swell, officially ending drought in those areas.
The National Weather Service predicts that those regions and others stretching along the Gulf Coast and up the Eastern Seaboard have higher than normal chances of precipitation for June, perhaps offering little respite for soggy lawns.
Lee understands there is a fine line between damaging a landscape by mowing and maintaining a presentable look for the property when grass is growing like wildfire and it’s too wet. Ideally, landscapes would get at least a three- or four-day reprieve and dry out enough to mow without leaving tire marks or low spots from lawn equipment.
In addition to creating havoc with mowing, heavy rains and flooding can take a toll on plant life, including trees. Too much moisture can damage trees, plants and grass just as easily as not enough.
Lee says property owners should be on the lookout for signs that the landscape has been damaged and take precautions to minimize the potential for damage. Proper drainage is one solution, but it may not always solve the problem when with persistent moisture.
Stay off the grass and avoid compacting soil
Wet, soggy grass can be damaged simply by walking or running. The obvious damage is leaving ruts or footprints, underneath the soil gets compacted and could damage roots or make it harder for them to grow once the soil dries. Apartments may want to consider posting signs about the property for residents to stay off areas that are particularly squishy.
Know the signs of fungus
Where there is moisture, fungus can become a problem. Fortunately, it can be corrected with a number of commercially available fungicides. Patches in the yard that become bright green, are somewhat stunted and then turn to yellow likely have some sort of fungus. Also, mushroom growth is another sign. When these signs are evident, begin aggressive treatment.
Trees that change in appearance indicate stress
The longer that trees are exposed to excessive moisture or flooding, especially when it’s recurrent or uninterrupted, the greater potential for injury, according to the Iowa State University extension program. Signs of waterlogged trees include yellowing leaves, dropping leaves, shooting growth, sprouting along the stem or trunk and crown dieback.
Observe drainage on the property and make adjustments
Lee said this can be a tricky area, especially for properties that don’t normally have drainage issues. In the event of 40-year floods or abnormal rainfall, drainage can be a problem on any property. Don’t panic, he said. Observe low spots in the landscape and correct at the first opportunity. Regrading parts of the property may be necessary. Also, ensure that downspouts are working properly. “Water will take the path of least resistance,” Lee said. “Make sure you call a qualified drain specialists. For severe problems, call a civil engineer.”
Aerate areas that were flooded or inundated by moisture
Once the landscape begins drying out and it’s safe to be on it, aerating the lawn will help begin a speedy recovery. Areas that have flooded will be covered by silt and sediment. Aerating will help the lawn breath and take on needed oxygen to promote growth. Typically, removing ½- to ¾-inch cores of soil is effective.
Lee says prolonged heavy rainfall may create a no-win situation for the landscape. However, he said, be observant and consult your landscape professional. Also, don’t panic, and let nature take its course.
“We’ve gotten calls needing emergency drainage solutions,” he said. “But it’s too wet to put in drains. Have you ever had to dig soup?”
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