What to Do after the Deluge

Labor Day weekend is here already, but don’t give up on summer just yet. There are plenty more warm sunny days to come — and probably a fair share of rainy ones, too. August delivered so many storms to my neck of the woods, my grass looks greener than springtime!

But a long period of steady rain can be especially hard on the grass in your yard. Your best response: Be patient until the downpour stops, then get rid of any standing water on your lawn. In most cases, you can simply dig trenches that are about 8 inches deep and 4 inches wide, and slope downward from the mini lake to a place where the water will do no damage.

If you don’t have a storm drain or roadside ditch, dig a hole downhill from the puddle, and end your trench there. The depth depends on how well drained the soil is in that spot, and how much standing water you’ve got. Start with a hole that goes down about a foot, then dig deeper if you have to. And, for safety’s sake, cover the opening with a board propped up on stones. That way, the water can run through, but nobody will accidentally stumble into the abyss.

Once you’ve sent all the surface water on its way, follow this three-step plan to put your soil (and therefore, your grass) on the road to recovery:

Step 1. Shove the tines of a garden fork into the soil, and move the fork back and forth a few times to enlarge the holes. This will help the water that’s lingering under the soil surface percolate downward.

Step 2. Apply gypsum at a rate of 50 pounds per 2,500 square feet of lawn area. This will loosen the soil to encourage better drainage.

Step 3. One week after you apply the gypsum, follow up with a premium, natural, organic fertilizer at the recommended rate.

If heavy rains hit as temps are turning cold, don’t waste any time getting standing water off of your lawn. When it remains there going into winter, it can lead to a condition called winter scald: The water freezes, and the sun shining though the ice warms up the soil so much that the grass breaks dormancy and starts growing. But because no air can get through the ice, the plants can’t survive for long. Even if the ice melts and the grass blades can breathe, the saturated soil below will cause the roots to die. And then your only option will be to dig up the dead grass in the springtime and replace it.