I have seen entire gardens swept away when the rain is heavy. Even in a raised bed garden, plants can become displaced and suffer damage from too much water all at once.
Nowadays we can pretty much guess when a storm of great magnitude is headed our way. Modern technology can allow us to see a storm system, the path it will most likely take, and how long it will last. The old standby of opening a window or door can tell us what is happening now but does little to tell us of tomorrow, the next day or the next week.
When we know a storm is on the way that will include a heavy downpour, simply building up the soil around each plant is usually enough to keep it from falling over or getting washed away.
Wind and hail can be destructive in the garden. Creating a windbreak will help and is easy if you already have a fence. Simply attach plastic to the fence, punch a few holes in the plastic so it doesnít blow out and remove it when you believe it is no longer needed or your neighbors complain how ugly it is.
If you have no fence you still have options. Smaller plants can be protected simply by placing a bucket over them. Place a brick or heavy object on the top of the bucket to prevent it from blowing away. Larger plants might require an inverted garbage can. Itís important to weigh things down. Strong winds can do amazing damage in very little time and a five gallon bucket flying through the air can be a real menace.
Low growing plants can be covered with a tarp as long as the tarp is securely staked in the ground and is not directly resting on the plants.
If you already use row covers, your plants should be protected from wind and hail. The lightweight fabrics used on most row covers might not be strong enough to endure hail, so adding a layer of thick plastic and securing it with bricks or other heavy objects should keep it in place long enough to prevent the plants from getting damaged.
Spring and summer storms are not always severe and precautions need not be taken if you see little risk for garden damage. It is the rain, after all, that makes the garden grow.
If you donít already have a rain barrel or two, now is an excellent time to install oneÖor two. It is a simple process and instructions can easily be found at the library or from various websites. Local soil and water conservation organizations often host workshops or sell the barrels outright.
During a heavy downpour a rain barrel can fill rapidly. To prevent overflow it is wise to have a diverter so excess water flows into another barrel or at least away from the foundation of your house.
You will be glad you have the rainwater when a dry spell occurs. Plants seem to prefer rainwater over municipal water and even well water.
Mother Nature can be gentle and kind, but she can also be cruel. Working with the natural, albeit unpredictable, course of nature requires preplanning and forethought. Setting up systems that will protect the garden in storms and drought will allow your garden to flourish.
Published: May 23, 2011