Friday, October 9, 2009

Before the Big Rain & Wind Storm Hits...

 The National Weather Service is ringing the meteorological alarm bell for Monday through Wednesday, Oct. 12-14: lots of rain (2 to 7 inches), lots of wind (gusts to 50-60 mph). Yes, we are weather weenies here in Northern California. Please bear with us as we...

Get Ready for the First Big Storm of Autumn!
A checklist:

• Secure, cover or remove patio furniture, bbq.

• Remove pads and umbrellas.
• Add compost to garden bed. Let the rains move it downward.

• Move plant starts to a safe area.

• Add gutter extensions.

To fertilize or not fertilize the lawn before a predicted rainstorm? Pros: fertilizer will be worked into the soil effortlessly. Cons: heavy rain could wash fertilizer off a lawn, especially if it is sloped, into the gutter. Synthetic chemicals in lawn fertilizers can damage creek life. Using organic fertilizer is one possible solution. Still, runoff from that can cause problems, as well. Do you feel lucky?
• Remove diseased, dying plants and fallen fruit. Rainfall can spread harmful fungal diseases.
• Low spots? Mark those overly wet areas with a stick and take action after the storm (see below for more).
• Turn off the automatic sprinklers. Reset after the storm or just water manually, as needed, between storms.

• Protect new plants in the ground with row covers. Heavy rain could uproot seedlings. Row covers will disperse that action.
• Move tools indoors. Cover or move lawn mowers.

• Turn over buckets, pots, etc. to keep mosquitoes away.
• Do you use a sump pump during the winter to move water from unwanted areas, such as pool covers? Make sure it is working!
• The first storm of the season means downed tree limbs. 

• Does your generator work?

• Harvest heavy fruit to keep branches from breaking.
• Harvest whatever might rot from too much water, such as walnuts.
• Do you have a covered area to feed outdoor pets?

• Do you have a shelter for your outdoor pets?
• Empty pool filters. The first batch of storm-driven leaves are on the way!
• Cover the pool and spa to keep debris out.

• The combination of leaf-heavy trees and storms means a high possibility of large branches falling. Move your valuables out of harm's way, including your vehicles. 

• Replace torn tarps on firewood.

• Clean roof gutters before the storm


For Overly Wet Areas After the Storm:
* Dig a sump. A hole that is dug in the lowest portion of your yard, a hole that penetrates through all the layers of hardpan (usually 2-4 feet below the surface), can help drain away stormwater. Line the hole with a non-porous material (hard plastic sheeting, for example) to keep the surrounding dirt from falling back into the hole. Fill the hole with small rocks, about one inch in diameter.

* If it's the lawn area that's flooding, dig a trench and lay a drain line in the lowest area of the lawn. Don't do any digging immediately after a heavy rain, though; wait until the soil dries enough to avoid unnecessary soil compaction. Be sure to slope the perforated drain pipe, allowing at least a one foot drop for each 100 feet of length (one quarter-inch per foot). Dig backwards from where the water will exit the pipe, trenching back towards the source of flooding to help determine how deep to lay the drain pipe. Line the trench with a few inches of gravel, both above and below the pipe. For a lawn area, try to lay the pipe at least two feet below the surface.

* If it's the garden bed that's flooding, consider building raised beds this fall, lining the bed with 2X8, 2X10 or 2X12 redwood planks. Capping off the top of these boards with 2X6 redwood will give you a comfortable place to sit while harvesting vegetables and pulling weeds.

* If you haven't planted in a flooded area yet, consider creating mounds first, planting trees and shrubs on the top of the mounds.

* If you're still stuck with pools of standing water after heavy rains despite your best efforts, consider planting trees and shrubs that can take "wet feet". Water-tolerant trees for our area include birch, sweet gum, magnolia, tupelo and coast redwoods. Shrubs for wet areas include thuja and red twig dogwood.


  1. Thanks for the reminder. Looks like I got lucky and the roofer will be out monday morning (to patch a small missing part on a steep ridge). I need to sand bag and tarp my basement steps, pull the canvas off the patio cover, reinstall gutter extensions, put away anything I do not want wet, and stack the patio furniture. I'll also get to see how my lawn drains past my new garden section.

  2. Great advice. I know what I'm doing this weekend!

  3. Love that photograph of the approaching clouds. After a summer of dry, the first real storm is always a pleasant surprise. By the end of winter I'll be singing a different tune, but for now it's exciting.

  4. I wish someone had reminded me to remove the shade cloth from the greenhouse. Former shadecloth, that is.