Expert Tips on Preparing Outdoor Spaces for Winter Rainfall
While the rain recorded in March was unprecedented, and not something those in the worst of the devastating flood zones could have planned for, there are steps homeowners can take to prepare outdoor spaces for the more typical wet weather that Winter can bring.
Landscape designer, co-founder and creative director of the award winning ‘Landart Landscapes’ Matt Leacy shares his top tips for preparing gardens to harness the rain, and avoid erosion.
Create a rain garden
If you can’t beat it, you may as well use it according to Matt. A rain garden will help stop erosion, filter storm water run-off and capture water that would otherwise be lost. Some councils enforce retention tanks to be installed when building a house. These can easily be converted to a water garden provided you don’t change the amount of water holding capacity the tank should have.
To get started Matt suggests:
- Choose where you capture the bulk of your storm water from – i.e., a downpipe, driveway or pathway, or from rainwater tank overflow.
- Choose a planter box that fits your space or excavate a trench that leads water to a lower lying point in your garden.
- Layer your planter box with a bottom layer of gravel to aid with water filtration, then soil and sand, and add a waterproof liner to ensure the storm water is captured for reuse.
- If you’re creating an in-ground rain garden, dig the area with a gentle slope away from the house. You will also need to dig a shallow trench that re-directs water to this part of your garden.
- Cover your rain garden with gravel to retain moisture (bark or straw will float into storm water drains).
Take care with what and how you plant to avoid erosion
Choosing plants with a root system that will help bind and hold soil, especially on an incline, will help limit erosion. Anything that takes root and grows quite quickly is the best choice. Some of your native ground covers like myoporum and hibbertia or any ornamental grasses like lomandra, poa or dianella will work well.
Cover steep slopes
Mulching with heavy materials like gravel that won’t easily wash away, and planting grass or other ground cover plants such as those we’ve just touched on can help stop erosion and creation of a mud slide when torrential rain sets in. If you have a really steep slope there are commercial matting products you can also roll out and pin down to your slope until plants become better established. If you are planting on a really steep slope, just ensure that it’s not too steep to allow mowing and maintenance of whatever you put in. If it is too steep for you to maintain, a retaining wall or terraces are the next step.
If the slope in or beside your garden is too steep for proper planting/grass growth and maintenance, retaining walls and creating terraces are ideal for stopping erosion and to help turn steep, hilly spaces into useable areas in your yard. Retaining walls can create a great garden bed base and add a lovely feature to your garden, and there are a lot of finishes – from natural stone to timber and concrete – that can be used for a retaining wall.
As they’re structural and can have a lot of weight behind them I would suggest using a professional to install a retaining wall. You should also keep in mind that you need to check with your local council regarding retaining wall height restrictions. Over certain heights you will need Council approval and take into account engineering considerations.
Never let your garden dry out
It seems to defy all logic, however ensuring that your garden soil is moist and doesn’t become hard and hydrophobic will help stop erosion in torrential downpour. The soil will be better able to absorb and retain the rain, rather than just getting washed away when it hits a hard, non-absorbent surface.
When torrential rain has hit your garden Matt’s top tips for getting it back into shape include:
Remove any pooled water
If your garden isn’t drying out properly after heavy rain and you still have pools of water you may need to dig a trench for run off or install more drainage in your outdoor area. Otherwise, if it’s just a one-off small patch of water you can bucket the excess water away or let it seep through. You should also empty things like old pots and wheelbarrows in your garden that have filled with water. Especially while the weather is still warmer, otherwise they are likely to become mosquito breeding grounds.
Do a health check on your plants
If it has been very heavy rain, walk through your gardens and look for damaged plants. Remove any broken or damaged branches and leaves and stake up any plants that have been bent from the weight of the rain. Also check around the roots and add additional soil and mulch to any that have been exposed because of erosion. It’s especially important leading into the colder winter months to have all roots well insulated and covered.
Take advantage of the soft soil
While the soil is very wet and soft get in and remove all the weeds that have probably also thrived in the rainy weather. They should pull out quite easily from the soft soil. Following rain, while the soil is lovely and soft is also a good time to plant anything new that you would like to introduce to your garden.
Matt Leacy is co-founder and Creative Director of the award-winning Landart Landscapes. Matt has more than 20 years’ experience in design, construction and maintenance services across landscaping and pool installation for both residential and commercial properties. He was also Channel 10 The Living Room’s resident landscape designer.
A selection of Matt’s work can be found at www.landart.com.au