Walking up to a small garden of assorted flowers and taller bushes, Herndon resident Margaret Peck points down to a depression in the soil.
“See, here I had some boxwood [bushes] that I started from some clippings,” Peck said, pointing towards the empty spots at the front of the edge garden, lightly covered with dried mulch. “But it was too low, boxwood don’t like to have wet feet.”
“You look over here, it is a bit higher up, so that’s why I have some boxwood here,” she added, walking over to a shady bowl-shaped patch of grass. “Over here I have a rainy spot, so I’ll put something that will like the wetness.”
Finding out what plants adapt best to what types of environment are imperative to having a successful garden, said Peck, a master gardener with more than 20 years of experience.
Planting bushes, flowers and other plant life in areas that don’t suit that type of plant are the number one reason that people see damage to their yards after periods of extensive rains, Peck said. Some Herndon residents are getting a crash course in dealing with this sort of damage after the record-breaking rains that swept through the area two weeks ago.
NOT BEING FAMILIAR with certain gardening fundamentals, landscaping tactics and water drainage patterns can spell disaster for local yards experiencing high levels of rain, said John Dudzinsky, community forester for the Town of Herndon.
“If [citizens] are having problems with their garden, the first step is to see where water is flowing and where it is ponding,” into excessive water pools, Dudzinsky said. “In order to find that out you really need to get out and look and see what’s happening with the drainage patterns in your yard.”
Plants that can’t handle large amounts of water should not be planted in areas that are depressed or at the bottom of slopes. These areas tend to get and hold water which could drown the plants, according to Dudzinsky.
“Once they find out how the water is flowing, [residents] can make an effort to get the water away from those areas,” he added.
One strategy is to add topsoil to a depressed area, which would effectively raise the roots of the plant above where the water is pooling, Dudzinsky said. Some people even use pieces of wood to segment off built up areas of topsoil, he added.
“The only thing that they are going to want to be careful about is to avoid blocking the water drainage as it is on the natural path … and redirecting that water towards a neighbor’s yard,” Dudzinsky said.
RESIDENTS OF HERNDON have an added challenge as most local soils are not naturally efficient at draining large amounts of water, according to Dudzinsky.
“Most of our soils around here in Herndon are clay soils … and clay soils will hold water a lot longer, so the draining feature of lighter soils won’t be there,” Dudzinsky said.
Compost, store-bought peat moss or topsoil can be mixed in with planting beds to make the soil more fertile and more conducive to water drainage, he added.
Knowing which plants adapt best to certain environments, being familiar with the environmental changes on somebody’s property, and matching those plants and zones up appropriately, are the most important things to gardening, according to Peck.
For that reason, she said that she makes an effort to learn the intricacies of her yard and regularly reads gardening magazines.
“So often it’s just in choosing the proper plants that will adapt to the place that you put them,” Peck said. “If you pick the right plants for the area, you can maintain them and then rains can come and go, but the plants will be all right.”