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A Note on Soils in Wet Weather

It's the end of the first full week of January 2021, and what a week it has been.

We've got to grips with Lockdown 3.0 and looked on in horror at the riots in the US Capitol.

Now we've got to tackle the forecast days of Yellow weather warning for snow and ice.

We're looking forward to getting back out to our various sites after the Christmas break as much as the next company, but as tempting as it is to "ignore the weather and get on with it", that's not really what's best for the garden.

Here's a note on soil health in this weather;

This particular site is on an exposed hill and suffers from heavy rain/snow which melts and saturates the heavy clay soil.

Envisage Gardens arts and crafts garden worcester garden design
This Arts and Crafts inspired garden is nearly 70% herbaceous borders, so we have to ensure the health of the soil.

Not only is it not safe for us to be on this site at the moment, it's not safe for the soil either. This deceptively steep site might cause people to slip or vehicles to skid, and people walking or driving around on this saturated soil would lead to compaction (squashing the soil).

Soil compaction is a serious problem as it can:

  • squash air pockets out of the soil and allow anaerobic bacteria to proliferate. Large amounts of 'bad' bacteria can rot off existing plant material or kill other beneficial organisms in the soil such as fungi,

  • reduce the soils ability to hold water or allow rain water to infiltrate; this can lead to run-off or flooding further down hill, or can cause surface waterlogging or ponding on level ground,

  • once the soil dries out, it may form a solid lump which water and roots would find difficult to penetrate; plants subsequently have less access to nutrients and water, and this leads to reduced yield or growth.

These inhospitable conditions may also reduce the ability for seasonal plants to spring back into growth or prevent fresh seeds from germinating.

In practice this means; bulbs may die, plants we rely on for vigorous growth and beautiful blooms such as roses may struggle or look 'sad', lawn turf or seeds may not grow at all or may hold puddles of water, 'bad' fungi and bacteria may grow and kill expensive plants. Plus, lets not mention the unforgettable smell of stale soil!

We are particularly well-versed at working with saturated soils as the majority of our work over the last 35 years has been across the Three Counties of Worcestershire, Herefordshire and Gloucestershire/Cotswolds. All of these counties are notorious for their heavy clay soil (why couldn't we live in sandy Bedfordshire?) so we are prepared from the start to tackle problems that homeowners may not even be aware of.

There are drains running throughout this garden but that won't mitigate compaction. It can take years to correct compaction, or extreme intervention, for example, digging out old soil and importing fresh soil.

Sometimes we have to do what's best for the garden and not what's best for our business i.e. don't work on it, leave it alone!

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