If you’re one of the lucky ones, Sandy left you with some of your garden still intact. But the serious amount of rain, wind, and other woes might have left it in sad shape. Depending on where your garden is located, how damaged it is, and what types of plants you have, you probably have some amount of work on your hands. George Wiegel offers some great advice on taking care of things, which I’ll paraphrase here:
Check for and fix washouts. Strong rain can have the same effect as a hose turned up on high pressure. It can cut channels into the soil, expose roots of plants, wash up plants with shallow roots, and create pools of water. Re-plant and cover plants with soil as soon as possible, and rake out any channels.
Un-soggify your soil. Have you ever over-watered your plants? Some might tolerate being occasionally flooded quite well, but others are not so water-friendly. Leaving plants in flooded soil makes them likely to rot and die. If you can, try to drain the water with a single drainage channel (not multiple). Stay off of wet soil so you don’t compact it and trap the water near the plant, and keep an eye on and not all plants that are immersed.
Clean up leaves. High winds from Sandy swept a lot of leaves off trees. And besides being dangerous to travellers (they’re slippery), they can also block off drainage pipes and gutters, kill and rot on your lawn, and suffocate groundcover beds.
Repair tree damage. If you have trees, watch for damaged limbs. DO NOT climb up trees to fix damage or remove limbs. Besides the fact that it’s a dangerous activity normally, the trees could be unstable and unsafe after the storm. Stick to the problems close to the ground. Cut off badly damaged limbs and repair branch splits when you can (see Weigel’s blog for more information). Any small trees or shrubs that blew over or are leaning should be replanted and staked up for the winter.
De-flood gardens. It’s unfortunate, but you’ll need to scrap any produce that was submerged by floodwater. It can contain toxins—not all of which can be cooked or scrubbed out. Stay out of the garden while it’s still wet. If you do work in it (even after flooding is gone), make sure to wash up immediately and throw dirty clothes directly in the washer. After 90 days, your soil will filter out most contaminants, so you’ll be fine to re-plant next year.