Post-Harvey horticultural recovery

I’ve put together a compilation of every tip sheet, web link and article I could come up with covering excessive rain. I suggest you bookmark this page, so you’ll have a quick resource for landscape remediation.

What follows is by no means the only or final answer to any of the situations outlined.  It’s just some of the advice that’s out there. 

I’ll discuss all the issues and explain them in more detail this weekend on the GardenLine radio program.  So, tune in or call 713-212-KTRH (5874) Saturday and Sunday 6-10 a.m. to get clarification on any of the topics.  You can also email to let me know of a specific topic or two you would like covered in upcoming weeks. You’ll find the email link our GardenLine pages

To recover any lawn, turf, flower bed, tree, or veggie garden that was hit with heavy rains or inundated by flood waters, these categories will guide you through just about any situation: 

Soil Activators/Aeration/Compost

Soil Activators:  First, don’t be paralyzed by the choices.  There are several on the market, and while Medina Soil Activator is the best known, getting these microbe-charging elixirs down is the first step. Period.  Even if you can’t find something that’s specifically labeled “soil activator,” anything in a liquid form and 100 percent organic (molasses, humic acid, seaweed extract … even liquid organic fertilizers) can be applied to the surface of any soil to provide beneficial enhancement. We need to super-charge nature’s own microorganisms to rebuild a healthy soil profile.  And this is not just a one-time-only application. You probably should do it every couple of weeks until our first cold front.

Aeration:  Again, it doesn’t matter if it’s turf, or trees, or beds. Get some holes poked immediately.  We need to get oxygen down deep into the soil.  You don’t need to rent an aeration machine or invest in a tilling tool.  Just get out there with a piece of steel rebar or broken golf club … whatever you can get your hands on … and poke holes in the soil.  All the holes don’t have to be created in one day. Once a week for the next several weeks, just pick a new section of the landscape and get to aerating.

Compost:  After you’ve added soil activator and done some aeration, selectively apply some high-quality compost.  And I mean way more than just compost top-dressing the lawn. Getting into beds of nearly any kind to blend in a couple of inches here and there will be so beneficial to building back organic matter and bring life to the soil. 

More tips and links

Soil Remediation:  Here’s a great video from Medina Agriculture,  which has the most soil-activating liquid organic products on the market.  And they have lowered their pricing throughout the region, because they know these products are going to be needed in a grand way.    While the video is aimed at remediation from salt water storm surges, this remedy will work even better with freshwater flood damage.


Sod Web Worms:  Believe it or not, sod web worms apparently did not drown or get washed away by Harvey.  If you’re seeing moths, get busy with liquid insecticides.  I advise that you alternate between at least two different liquid insect controls to get a handle of this problem.  It always takes more than one application, and no one has ever controlled an infestation with granular insecticides.  Still, they’re great in conjunction with liquids or in a prophylactic approach if you don’t have an issue yet. 

Fungal disease in lawns:  I hope you can head off any fungal disease brought in by flooding or too much water by following the 3-Step Soil Activator/Aeration/Compost approach.  But if you start seeing yellowing grass or an obvious sign of brownpatch, see this tip sheet.   

Weeds:  Expect an onslaught of new weeds in just about any yard that was covered in flood waters. Lawns that were pristine are going to see weeds they’ve never experienced, and lawns that were not well cared for are going to be overwhelmed - weed seeds love to germinate in the poorer soils of our region.  So be prepared to put out pre-emergent herbicides now and again over the next 45-60 days. And be ready to hit any emerging weeds with post-emergent herbicides for a contact kill.  Here’s an all-encompassing tip sheet on herbicides.  

Trees:  They are going to start dropping leaves like crazy.  Try to see this as a good thing.  Trees that are shedding leaves prematurely are employing a defense mechanism.  To keep themselves alive after a major stress, trees will shed leaves so they don’t have to support them anymore.  And after trees’ root systems have been under water for extended periods, they’re stressed. Again, the 3-Step Soil Activator/Aeration/Compost approach will help.  In fact, aeration and soil activators are an absolute must.  If a tree’s leaves have gone completely brown and is not shedding, in most cases the tree is dead.  There are a few trees that can and hold on to brown leaves and live, but they are few and far between.  Just check for some green under the bark before you totally give up. Expect the worst but be hopeful if there’s any green under the bark. I talked with a tree expert last weekend during our storm coverage on KTRH and asked  how long a tree’s roots can be covered with water and be expected to live.  He suggested 3-5 days was it for any average size tree.  Many mature oak trees can handle 7-10 days, but the older trees east of the Barker Reservoir still under water after two weeks are probably not going to live.

GardenLine with Randy Lemmon

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