Planning For El Niño: Gardening and Landscaping Tips

Planning For El Niño: Gardening and Landscaping Tips

Jun 21st 2023

You may have heard that El Niño is forecast to return in 2023 and may set a new temperature record. But do you know what El Niño is?

El Niño is a weather phenomenon that occurs when surface water temperatures significantly rise in the Pacific Ocean to above-average levels, which can significantly impact weather patterns worldwide. This weather pattern occurs every two to seven years. During El Niño years, certain regions experienced increased rainfall and unexpected weather conditions.

Once El Niño starts, all hell may break out. Flooding, standing water, mudslides, highway washing out, and leaking roofs are among the anticipated issues. These issues can pose serious challenges to gardens and landscapes.

So, you must get ahead of the game! In this guide, you will learn some valuable tips and strategies to help you plan and adapt your gardening and landscaping practices during El Niño.

Tips to Plan For El Niño Gardening and Landscaping

Are you planning for El Niño? Here are some tips to prepare your garden and landscapes.

  1. Stay Updated on El Niño Forecasts

Regularly monitor El Niño forecasts to stay informed about expected weather conditions in your area. This will allow you to make proactive decisions and adjust your gardening and landscaping plans accordingly.

  1. Clean Roofs, Gutters, and downspouts

Rake away fallen leaves from roofs, clean out gutters and downspouts of debris, and look for and repair any cracks or loose brackets. Clean out gutters after the first rainfall because rain-driven leaves can easily obstruct drainage systems again.

The benefit of gutters is that they allow you to direct the water accumulated on your roof. You can then store or direct the water to places where it can seep into the ground.

  1. Fix Leaks

Check and fix any leaks in your irrigation system, outdoor faucets, hoses, and roofs. You may have made it through the last three comparatively dry winters with a leaky roof, but now is the time to fix any roof cracks or other damage. Leaks can cause unnecessary wastewater and undermine your efforts to preserve water after heavy rainfall.

  1. Assess Garden Drainage

Before the peak season arrives, check your garden's drainage system and make any necessary improvements. Make sure that the soil slides away from your house or other structures and that water drains unhindered from patios and decks.

Proper drainage is essential to prevent waterlogging and soil erosion during El Niño. Ensure your plant containers have proper drainage by providing drainage holes and using a well-draining potting mix.

  1. Keep Surfaces Permeable

Impervious surfaces include traditional pathways, driveways, or mortared patios. Water runs off them and frequently enters storm drains before heading to the ocean.

Excess water may challenge local gardens, whether it brings deluges or recurrent showers. Fortunately, you can take many actions to avoid or lessen the consequences of standing or running water in your garden.

You can increase the portion of your garden to infiltrate rainwater. This lets more water permeate the ground rather than accumulate in creeks or ponds. Moreover, you can convert impermeable surfaces to permeable ones. Use materials like gravel, permeable pavers, or permeable asphalt to allow rainwater to infiltrate the soil rather than run off.

  1. Use a Rain Garden, dry well, or dry swale.

Install dry swales, a dry well, or a rain garden to increase the water permeating your landscaping. Create a swale 10% to 20% larger than the roof and other areas that drain into the garden. You can plant the swale as a rain garden or fill the garden with sand and stones as a dry creek bed.

In any case, the low area will help keep water from draining away and into a storm drain. These easy methods will prevent runoffs and allow water to seep into the soil, maintaining trees, shrubs, perennials, and other deep-rooted plants well into the dry season.

  1. Turn off irrigation

When the rain hits, turn off your irrigation system to avoid overwatering. Allow nature to provide your plants with the moisture they need. Be sure to check soil moisture levels. Turn on drip systems only when necessary for containers or raised beds that can dry out more quickly.

  1. Replenish Mulch

Fresh mulch is more prone to washing away. If you apply mulch, consider mulching in the late summer or early fall. This will allow the mulch to firm up slightly before the winter rains.

Cover dirt walkways with a dense layer of straw mulch or bark to stop mud from sliding in the house and allow water to drain into the ground instead of running off quickly.

  1. Add Berms

In the summer, sandy soils dry out rapidly, while clay soils tend to retain water and become damp in the winter. Most gardens have 'high and dry' and 'low and moist' zones. If not, adding some garden landscape using shallow swales and low berms is relatively simple.

Create shallow earthen mounds to direct rainwater away from your home and onto areas that can effectively absorb it (such as rain gardens, swales, or regions with sandy, quick-draining soil). Create mounds on hillsides with the help of straw wattle ropes added to run horizontally along the slope to direct water and help to prevent soil erosion.

  1. Amend Soil

Compacted soil or heavy clay will not effectively absorb water. Spread 4 to 6 inches of compost on top of garden beds, break up any compact colds, and mix the soil with a shovel to get the soil ready for rain.

  1. Choose Resilient Plants

Choosing plants that can withstand heavy rain and temperature fluctuations is essential while planning for El Niño. Select species that are known for their adaptability and ability to survive in moist environments. Ferns, daylilies, astilbes, and hostas are some examples. Furthermore, native plants are frequently well-adapted to local weather patterns, making them more resilient during harsh weather events.

  1. Prepare for Drought Aftermath

Although El Niño brings heavy rains, it can also result in drought. Prepare for El Niño's aftermath using water-saving practices such as mulching, deep watering, and drought-tolerant gardening techniques. Moreover, you should check and follow water restrictions, if any, imposed by local authorities.

  1. Store Rainwater

Collect and store rainwater for later use during drier periods. Install cisterns or rain barrels to collect rainwater from roofs. You can add a beautiful rain chain connecting a rain barrel or other catchment, and it can also increase the beauty of your garden. You can use stored water for watering your garden but not for drinking.

Final Thoughts

El Niño can pose serious challenges for gardeners and landscapers, but with proper planning and preparation, you can successfully navigate the heavy rains and disrupted weather. Stay informed, adapt your gardening practices, and implement strategies to ensure the vitality and health of your plants. By following the tips mentioned in this guide, you'll be well-equipped to tackle the challenges posed by El Niño and maintain a flourishing garden and landscape through the season.