“Wet August” sounds like a paradox. Even at the end of our wet July, I was saying that climatologically-speaking with the exception of thunderstorms and hurricane moisture, August is dry. It’s not till the changing of the seasons later in September that the persistent gentle rains come. But we had some “blocking” – however that happened, and whatever that is – and we have now had a wet August.
As of this writing, with a week left in August, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Airport seems to have had the second wettest August on record. So many of us feel like it’s early May, trying to form a mental map of the wet areas in our lawns so that we do not have to call a tow truck to rescue our lawn mower. In fact, anecdotally, it is the exception that a lawn in our area does not have a bit of a swamp at least some times of the year.
Where do these micro-swamps come from? The micro-swamps can come from two places, and both are generally impacted by rainfall. First, the swamp may just be a low spot or a collection area of surface water. When it rains, by soil, by channel, or by piping, water is conveyed to that spot, and because of a grading issue, it is contained in that spot. In other words, water comes in, but it does not go out.
The second water source for a micro-swamp may be underground, and this is a more complicated scenario. Underground sources of water usually keep an area wetter much longer than mere rainfall does, and they can keep hillside areas wet.
How should these wet spots be treated? First, in an unusually wet year, I do not recommend calling the excavator. It wasn’t this swampy last year, and it probably won’t be this swampy next year. Second, look at your downspouts. Is all of your roof water being directed to that spot in your yard? One inch of rain falling on a 1,200-square-foot roof adds up to nearly 750 gallons of water. In a month like this one, that’s comparable to having much of a tractor trailer tanker dumped on your lawn. So plan to have your downspout water redirected.
But redirecting downspout water off our lawns can challenge the storm sewers’ capacities. And in some cases, it may be impossible without a pumping station.
So what can you do?
You can just plan to avoid mowing that spot for a few weeks, or you can remodel the swamp. If you do a swamp makeover, you will need to decide how big of an area is typically swampy, then pick the right amount of plants that accept “hydrological variability” (swamp plants) to plant and maintain there.
Congratulations, you just built your own water treatment system – or informal rain garden.
Joshua Arp is an ISA-certified municipal specialist, Clarks Summit’s municipal arborist and an operator of an organic lawn and landscape maintenance business. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.