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Brainstorm

The parade of storms that made this the wettest February in Orange County has left many lawns looking like bogs, swimming pools like swamps.

While there is a break in the weather, inventory what the deluge has done outside your house. And catch your breath. March may have more in store.

Leavesdropping

The storms have been windy ones, and that means leaves blown onto roofs. It also means the dog’s ball you tossed onto the roof last fall probably was dislodged.

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They wind up in the rain gutters, where they form dams and send water cascading down the sides of the house.

Check your gutters and clear obstructions. Afterward, if you feel like putting mesh leaf guards over the gutter openings, don’t. The pros say the leaves tend to gather on top of the guards, where they still block drainage.

If you don’t have gutters and want them installed, get in line. Gutter contractors say El Nino has swamped them with business.

Contain Yourself

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Plants grown in containers fare well even in severe rainstorms because planting mixes are formulated to drain quickly.

Be sure to empty standing water from saucers or basins underneath containers.

Flowering plants may need some grooming to remove damaged blooms or broken stems. These are unsightly and can also be entry places for disease organisms.

When soil is no longer soggy, fertilize with a liquid. Many gardeners prefer to use fertilizer at half the recommended strength every two weeks.

Shock Treatment

If your pool water looks cloudy or greenish, there’s probably a chemical imbalance and some suspended sediment.

The answer may be a “shock treatment"--1 or 2 extra gallons of chlorine added and four to six extra hours of filtering for two or three days. Keep testing the water until its pH balance is between 7.2 and 7.8 and residual chlorine is 1 or 2 parts per million.

If the pool has a muddy bottom, however, you have a bigger problem.

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Two-inch-thick mud probably can be vacuumed out, although you’ll have to clean your filter several times before you’re done.

Deeper mud is deeper trouble, and you may have to turn to a pool service. The pool may have to be pumped out.

Electrical problems with pool pumps are common after heavy rains. If you’re afraid the pump motor will short out, turn off the pump at the pool circuit breaker. Turning it off at the pump risks that deadly combination of water and electricity.

Taking a Sand

If water from the street overflowed into your yard, it will probably do it again. Lay in sandbags or 2-by-12-inch planks braced by stakes. Either can form a mini-levee to help divert flowing water back into the street. Often neighbors must cooperate, since more than one yard can be flooded.

Keep in mind: Planks and sandbags can’t hold water back, only divert it.

When it comes time to dispose of sandbags, you can throw the outer wrapping into the trash, but getting rid of the sand can be a problem. You can spread it thinly on the lawn, put it in planter boxes or just pile it up somewhere and wait for the next time you need sandbags.

Walk This Way

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Slopes will take longer to dry--shaded ones as long as several months. This is very unstable soil; avoid walking on it. If you must, use caution to prevent mini-mudslides.

Bare slopes, once dry, should be planted with ground covers or prostrate shrubs having deep root systems. Experts recommend native grasses or shrubs such as wild lilac (Ceanothus) or coyote brush (Baccharis pilularis) and vines such as bougainvillea.

Go Manual

A good first step for your soggy garden: Turn off your automatic sprinklers or set them to rain mode. That seems obvious, but who hasn’t seen sprinklers spouting during or right after a pouring rain?

Dig trenches to drain standing water from planters and gardens. If there’s not much water, scoop it out with a flat-headed shovel.

Most gardens will dry within three or four days of solid sunshine, then bounce back greener than ever. Soil with added organic matter will drain more quickly.

If it doesn’t drown them, the rain benefits plants by leaching accumulated salts from the soil. But it also leaches out nutrients that must be replaced by fertilizing.

Wait a week or so until the soil is no longer soggy. Gently cultivate around plants and shrubs with a one-prong cultivator and work in some mulch. Use granular or liquid fertilizer; the latter works faster.

Hold back on fertilizer if roses have not yet leafed. Some shrubs such as gardenias may have yellowish leaves, indicating they need iron. Add chelated iron to the soil.

Get ready for weeds and snails, which appear in force after a good soaking.

Troubled Trees

Gardeners who trimmed their trees last fall probably fared well during these wild storms.

But many trees suffered, especially those with shallow roots (eucalyptus and some pine varieties) and those with dense, heavy canopies (oaks).

An arborist is required if a mature tree is in trouble, but there are some things you can do for immature trees.

If a tree is leaning and roots are exposed, push the tree upright and cover exposed roots with sandbags to counterbalance. Then rig guy wires to support the tree. Be sure to attach flags so wires are visible.

Stake any tree or tall shrub that is tilting. Secure with ties that support but are loose enough to prevent damage to the growing trunk.

Broken limbs should be removed. Leave a 1- or 2-inch stump at the trunk and coat with a pruning sealer to retard disease.

Between the Cracks

Concrete slab floors, the norm in Orange County, are susceptible to water damage. Cracks can let water into the house.

Standing water along the outside edges of the foundation means you need to improve drainage. Install roof gutters. If you already have gutters, make sure they’re clear. Check to make sure water from gutter downspouts is flowing away from the house.

Outdoor planters against the outside walls can become saturated and allow water to seep into the house. Lining and sealing the planter is the solution.

Nailing the Problem

If water flooded your garage, before the next storm try nailing boards or plywood all the way across the bottom of the door. Shape the bottom edge to conform to the driveway. Place felt or foam rubber between driveway and board as a seal.

If any vertical seams need sealing, use putty, modeling clay, Play-Doh or the like.

If you have a door that is letting water into the house, you can take some of the same emergency measures. Lock the door so no one will accidentally open it, then fill all cracks with putty. Seal the entire doorway with a sheet of plastic attached with waterproof masking or electrician’s tape.

If a long-lasting seal is needed, use a good-quality caulking compound.

Mildews and Don’ts

It’s best to get professional help to dry a waterlogged carpet properly and prevent mildew. Cost per square foot is $1.25 to $2. Mildew loves heat but hates light, so keep heaters off and lights on while the carpet is drying. That could take three or four days.

Remove or elevate furniture off wet carpets or place foil or waxed paper under the furniture legs.

Lawn Order

Lawns need air. If yours has been underwater for a couple of days or more, it could literally be drowning.

Consider renting a pump to get rid of the standing water.

Once it’s gone, though, there’s still a problem. Walking on a soggy lawn creates a depression at every footstep, where water will pool next rain. Don’t walk or place anything on the lawn for a good 10 days or more, especially in areas that are shaded.

Heavy rains leach nutrients from the soil. Now is a good time to fertilize.

A heat wave might feel good right now, but if it happens when a lawn is soaked, fungus can develop and attack the grass. Fungicides are available at nurseries.

Compiled by STEVE EMMONS and KAREN DARDICK


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