The Plant Man: Winter storms bring challenges and opportunities for gardens

By Steve Kawaratani

“Rain showers my spirt and waters my soul.” –Emily Logan Decens

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Photos courtesy of Steve Kawaratani

Steve Kawaratani

While most of us welcome the changing seasons, which in Laguna are essentially sunny, overcast or occasionally wet, it’s important for gardeners to prepare for the inevitable arrival of the heavier rainstorms of February. While sunny days are expected in the main for our locale, intermittent winter storm brings challenges and opportunities for those tending to their gardens.

At the top of the list is assessing your home and garden’s drainage system. With our prevalent hilly topography, properties require an effective and efficient drainage system to prevent flooding, soil erosion and soggy soil. Clear debris from gutters and ensure that water can flow freely through downspouts. Consider increasing garden areas and permeable pathways to facilitate water absorption and reduce runoff, safeguarding both your plants and the ocean.

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For potted plants, elevate containers on bricks, wooden stakes or stands to prevent “wet feet,” and ensure that water drains through after watering or rain

With significant rainfall comes the risk of soil compaction, particularly in heavy clay soils common in many neighborhoods. Cultivate garden beds to improve aeration and add composted mulch and gypsum. A permeable soil will allow rainwater to penetrate more effectively, promoting healthy root growth. Apply a layer of the mulch around your plants to regulate soil temperature, minimize erosion and enhance water retention.

Pruning becomes a priority before and after storms; trim overgrown or weak branches to reduce the risk of breakage or property damage under the weight of rain-soaked foliage. This not only protects your plants, but also enhances air circulation that is essential to minimize the onset of fungal and bacterial diseases.

Potted plants also deserve special attention. Elevate containers on bricks, wooden stakes or stands to prevent “wet feet,” and ensure that water drains through after watering or rain. Consider moving delicate container plants to sheltered areas during heavy storms to shield them from potential storm-related damage.

Rainstorms also provide a valuable opportunity to conserve water for future dry spells. Set up rain barrels to collect runoff from your roof, offering a sustainable water source for your garden.

Stay watchful and mindful during and after rainstorms. Inspect your garden for signs of erosion, waterlogged areas and damaged trees and shrubs; addressing these issues promptly will protect your garden from long-term damage.

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A beautiful sunrise with clearing skies

When the skies clear with a beautiful sunrise, you can savor the beauty of your garden, embracing the fact that rain is essential for life. See you next time.

Steve Kawaratani has been a local guy for seven decades and likes to garden and drive the Baja Peninsula with Catharine and Loki. He can be reached at or 949.494.5141.

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