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Rain and more rain, and a garden, too

Carolina Moonlight baptisia stands tall in the rain garden at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. Photo courtesy Irvin Etienne

A Facebook friend reported that his Muncie, Indiana, garden received 30.1 inches of rain between April 28 and July 6, which he said was 75 percent of his annual rainfall. Indianapolis’ average annual precipitation is about 42 inches.

It’s hard to know if we should be grateful for the rain or curse it. I know we’d be cursing if we didn’t have rain.

Make sure containers of flowers, tomatoes, herbs and other plants are draining well. I had a very large pot that had drainage holes plugged with soil. I poked a sturdy stick in the holes and water gushed out.

We should also keep up with fertilizing plants in the ground, but especially in our pots. All of the rain is washing nutrients away, especially nitrogen. It’s not good to over fertilizer because the rain is already pushing plant growth. All the rain could also be turning plants’ leaves yellow. Consider an extra half dose of fertilizer instead of a full one.

Rain-enhanced Plant Growth Invites Insects, Disease

With All This Rain, Plants Can Drown

Rain gardens or swales

Several people have written asking about areas of their landscape that periodically retain water for several days or stay fairly wet most of the time. For some, it’s a drainage ditch. For others, it’s a low place in their yard or an area where there’s a lot of runoff, such as the bottom of a slope.

First, consider consulting with a landscape architect, contractor or designer to give a professional opinion. There also may be some guidance available from the Marion County Soil and Water Conservation District (http://marionswcd.org). Sometimes, excavation may be necessary along with the installation of layers of different materials, such as stone, gravel, sand or special kind of soil mix, to achieve a successful rain garden or bioswale.

Rain gardens are effective ways to handle run off from hard surfaces, such as parking lots, sidewalks and streets. The goal of some rain garden is to reduce pollutants that might come in that runoff before it hits the water table. Some examples can be found along Alabama Street downtown. A bioswale transforms a drainage ditch into something beautiful and environmentally friendly.

What to plant, they ask. There are a lot of perennials and shrubs that do well in this type of growing conditions, whether is shady or sunny. Some resources:

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