My cousin Carey and his wife Susan moved to Punta Gorda a few years ago. In doing their research before making such a life changing decision, they called me. The obvious questions were asked: “how much do you pay for water, electric, property taxes,” that kind of stuff.
But the most important question, and as I recall I think it was the first one Susan asked, “Does it rain there?”, (apparently it never rains in California). My reply? “And how! You will NOT be disappointed!”
Pretty sure, for them, that was the tipping point. They sold their home in California and never looked back. Susan was not disappointed. She loves the rain and, frankly, I’m with her. I love the rain, too!
That first good drenching rain after a long, dry spring and early summer is such a blessing for parched, tired landscapes. I literally run outside, dance and revel in the fresh smells and coolness of it, praying that what we have always depended upon as a normal pattern of afternoon rains in our hottest months, has finally arrived.
Rain is good! Our rain barrels are full to overflowing. Rain replenishes our aquifers and fills rivers, lakes and ponds with pure, clean water. Humans and wildlife alike are grateful.
Having said that, man oh man, are you as tired as I am of the recent continuous, unrelenting days of rain we’ve recently had? Even California Susan is over it.
The last two weeks have caused die hard rain lovers like me to re-think our positions. Last Saturday I was so thankful for a sunny sky to help dry things out a little — and then it RAINED!
Rain events like we’ve just gone through are generally associated with a tropical system churning out in the Gulf. Not sure where this one came from. I just don’t remember the last time it rained morning, noon and night for 10 straight days. More than a foot of rain over a short period of time always presents some problems that we have to get a handle on.
The bad? Hopefully Mosquito Control is working overtime, but we can do a few things to minimize the breeding of mosquitoes in our immediate neighborhoods. Probably the most effective, and honestly the easiest thing to do, is to avoid standing water around your property. Anything laying around outside that can hold even a few inches of water for more than three or four days is a breeding ground for mosquitoes. Police your own homestead.
Empty and refill bird baths every few days and encourage your neighbors to do the same.
Bromeliads cups can be flushed out with a hose weekly or put a tiny drop of canola oil in the cups to prevent mosquitoes from being able to lay eggs. Mosquito dunks can be placed in swales and other larger bodies of water to suppress mosquito larvae. A little vigilance goes a long way.
Be especially careful walking through your yard after heavy prolonged rains. Fire ants are on the hunt for higher ground and unfortunately cockroaches will run for cover, mostly inside your house or garage. These problems are best left to your bug guy, pretty sure he’s seen this movie before.
Lawn and plant diseases flourish in cloudy, rainy conditions. All you can realistically do is wait it out until you’re sure you’ve got six good hours of dry weather before spraying a fungicide and hope it’s not too little, too late.
Wildlife is very often displaced by flooding rains. Don’t be surprised to find a black snake sunning himself on your driveway or a gopher tortoise escaping a flooded den. Never disturb wild things when they are simply trying to survive. Be tolerant of their plight.
Another problem we associate with heavy rains is our seawalls being compromised. Thankfully (well, maybe not “thankfully”) Hurricane Irma already did so much damage to seawalls that most of them have been replaced by now. It’s still a good idea to inspect your seawall after a serious rain event. Better proactive than reactive.
But the worst problem I’ve encountered is the loss of several pairs of my favorite shoes. Apparently leather and standing water do not mix and flip flops can be down right dangerous with all the slipping and sliding around in ’em when they get wet. I’m just going barefoot next time.
Foot-tall grass and lawn mower ruts, getting your car stuck in a muddy, saturated grass swale, the pond in your driveway that prevents you from walking to the mailbox. All annoying, dreadful ugly things that must be dealt with in situations like we’ve just experienced. And why does your dog decide to No. 2 in a 2-inch deep puddle? The thought of just leaving it there briefly crosses your mind, you even lookaround to see if anyone is watching, but you know in the end, you’ll pick it. Yuck! Now that’s ugly!
But the worst ugly of all is runoff! Polluted runoff. Water that leaves trash, oil and gasoline covered parking lots has to go somewhere, where does it go? Ideally it goes into retention areas that are designed to catch that nasty water but those retention ponds slowly percolate water into our aquifer, sometimes it’s been naturally filtered and sometimes not. Our constant covering of the land with impervious surfaces in the name of progress will eventually compromise our aquifer. This is one that we really have to figure out, and soon.
So here’s the gig: Rain events happen here. What we have to do is understand how our “inconveniences” can be life-threatening situations for the wildlife living among us. Do what you can to ensure that water runoff from your own property is as pollution-free as possible. Clean up oil and gasoline on your driveway, adhere to our seasonal fertilizer ban (June 1 to Sept. 30), empty containers that will surely become mosquito nurseries and then give your lawn guy a break!
Becky Copenhaver is a Master Gardener, Certified Horticulture Professional and former Certified Landscape Designer. She owns Becky’s Garden Shoppe, 6450 Elliott St. in Punta Gorda and can be reached at 941-621-8551 or firstname.lastname@example.org.