While the incessant rain may have left gardeners’ water butts overflowing, it has also inevitably claimed its share of casualties.
Waterlogged plants, nutrients leached from the soil and pest and disease problems can all result from consistently wet conditions, and those gardeners with poor drainage systems are likely to be the hardest hit.
When soil is waterlogged, plants literally drown. Water fills all the air spaces between the soil particles and this prevents oxygen from reaching the roots. In turn, this causes the soil to stagnate and prevents root growth.
If plants look a bit sickly after a week or two of solid rain the minerals may have been washed away. Restore the vigour of plants by giving them a dose of liquid seaweed fertiliser.
“It’s absolutely vital that one doesn’t walk on the soil when it’s this wet because you compact it and destroy its structure. Don’t dig it or disturb it but leave it to its own devices until the tide goes out,” says Guy Barter, head of RHS advisory service.
Plants likely to be worst affected include those from dry climates such as lavender and rosemary, while lawns can also suffer as a result of excessively wet weather, he notes. Don’t mow the lawn in wet weather or even walk on it, as the pressure can cause structural damage, especially to those grown from seed in spring - most established lawns can cope with excessive rainfall.
Barter advises gardeners to shelter pots of lavender and other container plants by a wall, or even put waterlogged pots on their side for a few days to allow them to drain a little. You may need to repot them in the spring, as the compost may be spent.
But the wet weather isn’t all doom and gloom for gardeners.
“Paradoxically, lawns will be growing in these temperatures,” points out Barter.
“While in the vegetable garden vegetables will still be growing, so leeks will thrive and cabbages will still be swelling slowly through this weather. By April many things will have come good.”