After the difficult drought we have endured in California, it might be hard to believe that heavy rainfall is on the way. But as you may have heard, El Nino is back, and weather forecasters predict we’ll be seeing a lot of rain over the winter months.

How bad will it get? First of all, keep in mind that our earth is currently parched from the long drought. That usually means that when rain does arrive, it won’t necessarily soak into the ground very easily. We should expect a lot of runoff water and standing water – perhaps even some flooding.

The biggest issue will be erosion. If you have already invested in low-water landscaping, due to the drought, many of those same features will help your yard withstand heavy rains as well. Wood chips, rocky landscaping, and hardscaping should fare well this winter. What we’re worried about is bare soil, which will tend to wash away if you don’t protect it. If your landscaping includes a lot of open areas, you should seek professional help to direct water where it is needed (and to prevent erosion). This is particularly true of large properties, but we will probably see erosion in smaller yards as well.

Most plants love rainfall, so they should fare just fine. One exception could be brand new plantings which have yet to develop deep root systems. These could be washed away by heavy rainfall, so take steps to protect new plants. You might want to transplant them to pots over the winter, or take the appropriate steps to direct water away from them. A layer of heavy mulch will help, but remember to check it after each rainfall. Sometimes mulch can wash away, and it might need to be replaced more often this winter.

As rainfall begins to increase, you can probably reprogram your sprinkler system or turn it off entirely. This will help you save money on your water bills, and prevent over-watering of your property. Plants don’t like “wet feet” so it’s best not to irrigate during times of heavy rainfall. Plants will need a break from excess moisture.

Flooding is a concern, according to forecasters, so stock up on sandbags if you have room to store them in a shed or garage. These can be used to redirect water in the event of erosion, or if your home is threatened by standing water. In particular, watch areas near concrete, such as sidewalks and patios. These areas are at increase risk of erosion.

Really important is ensuring that your drains and downspouts are in good working order. Clean all of your gutters before heavy rains arrive, and consider placing collection barrels at the bottom of downspouts. If you collect the water that runs off of your roof, you can divert a lot of it away from your landscaping.

If you love your trees, give us a call for tips on how to protect them. Once the soil becomes saturated later this winter, it will loosen its hold on tree roots. One period of high winds could cause tree loss.

Finally, don’t abandon the terrific water-saving measures you have recently adopted. Even if we get a lot of rain this winter, the same old drought patterns could very well return next spring.

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