Post-Rain Must-Do’s

– Posted in: Succulents

We’re not used to so much rain here in Southern CA. One series of storms has followed another. I’ve been gleefully gathering buckets of fresh rainwater for my potted plants. Could the drought finally be over? Well, no. It’ll take hundreds of years for underground aquifers to refill. The snowpack isn’t adequate for our future water supply. On the bright side, our gardens are looking glorious. Even those with mainly drought-tolerant plants. But when is rain TOO much rain? When plants sit in low spots that fill with water, and the roots drown. Otherwise, if drainage is adequate, there shouldn’t be a problem. Yes, even with succulents.

Now that there’s a break between storms, assess what needs doing. How is your garden draining? Are there standing water or erosion issues? Is there a need for professionals to perform reliable erosion repair and restoration services? Have pots filled with water that should be dumped before mosquitos find it and breed? I moved my potted succulents out from under the eaves before the last storm. Now they’re well soaked and ready to be put back.

Check your home’s basement. Mine used to have an inch or two of standing water whenever the ground became saturated during storms. A few years ago, a friend suggested a simple solution: Coat the concrete blocks that form the basement’s walls with a special paint that prevents seepage. Worked great. Any home improvement store carries it.

Even if you can’t do anything right now about rivulets throughout your garden, it’s likely they’ll get deeper with more rainfall. Or maybe you have standing water (puddles that don’t drain away). French drains, a layer of gravel or mulch, or diversion channels may be in order. When the weather clears, such issues are easy to forget. Take photos as reminders and address the problems before the next round of storms.

Now’s a good time to accumulate plants you want to add to your garden. Rain-soaked ground is soft and easy to dig. Early spring is the best time to establish new plants, after all danger of frost has passed (here in Southern CA, that’s usually by Valentine’s Day, but you may want to wait until March just in case). Plants will take off in spring and won’t have to contend with summer heat while putting down roots. And if your garden is like mine, when the soil dries, it’s as hard as concrete.

What to do about succulents that have rotted? They may be salvageable if there’s still firm tissue (cut above the rotten area and replant the cutting). This and other concerns are addressed in my new YouTube video, Oh No! Something’s Wrong with My Succulent! 

Debra Lee Baldwin
Award-winning garden photojournalist Debra Lee Baldwin authored Designing with Succulents, Succulent Container Gardens, and Succulents Simplified, all Timber Press bestsellers. Her goal is to enhance others' enjoyment and awareness of waterwise plants and gardens by showcasing the beauty and design potential of succulents via books, articles, newsletters, photos, videos, social media and more. Debra and husband Jeff live in the foothills north of San Diego. She grew up in Southern California on an avocado ranch, speaks conversational Spanish, and at age 18 graduated magna cum laude from USIU with a degree in English Literature. Her hobbies include thrifting, birding and watercolor painting. Debra's YouTube channel has had over 3,000,000 views.
Debra Lee Baldwin
Debra Lee Baldwin
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helena korjonen January 22, 2017, 11:35 am

Here in the UK we have extremely damp winters, rain, fog, dreary days that are just damp all day long. Mold is a major problem in property and most people have winter rhinitis, noses that don’t stop leaking!!! Plants suffer and most pull through if you have provided good drainage or sheltered spots. I have succulents in pits, some I protect in a coldframe but others I leave out but close to the house wall when we get frosts. Touch wood, so far all survive OK. There are problems with mildew once in a while. I still envy your climate even if drought is scary and unthinkable in our part of the world.

Kate@FLGardening June 2, 2017, 9:56 am

Totally understand you, Helena! I grow most of my succulents in containers, and I bring them inside for the winter. A very little part grow outside in the garden and I’m using cold frames to keep then form freezing too. UK’s climate is no the best for outside succulents growing. My mother from the other side, lies in Spain and and her backyard is like a Succulent Wonderland 🙂

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