Wasn’t the storm of 2021 a 1000-year storm? And only 2 years later another one? The math just isn’t making sense in my head.

The rugged and arid landscape of the high desert in Utah is known for its unique beauty, but it also presents challenges when dealing with natural disasters such as floods. Flooding can wreak havoc on your lawn and yard, causing soil erosion, damage to plants, and even changes in the composition of the soil. After a flood, restoring your lawn to its former glory requires a systematic approach that takes into account the specific characteristics of the high desert environment. In this article, I will discuss the essential steps and considerations for rehabilitating your lawn after a flood in the high desert Utah landscape.

Before you begin the restoration process, it’s crucial to ensure the safety of yourself and your family. Check the area for any debris, hazards, or contamination that may have been left behind by the floodwaters. If you encounter any hazardous materials or structural damage, contaminated materials, or unfamiliar objects, contact the appropriate authorities or professionals for assistance.

1. Remove Debris and Silt

Floodwater can leave behind debris, silt and sediment, rocks, logs, mulch, the neighbor’s dog, etc. that may smother your lawn and disrupt its natural balance. (Okay, maybe the dog was a joke.) Carefully remove any debris, rocks, or large objects from the lawn’s surface. Use a rake or shovel to gently scrape away accumulated silt, being cautious not to disturb the soil more than necessary.

2. Assess Soil Damage

Floodwater can impact the soil structure and composition in your lawn. If you have more than 1” of “new” soil, conduct a soil test to determine the pH level, nutrient content, and overall health of the soil. You can obtain soil testing kits from local agricultural extension offices or online. Based on the test results, you can adjust the soil’s pH and add necessary nutrients to promote healthy plant growth.

3. Reestablish Grading

Soil erosion is a common issue after a flood, especially in the high desert where the landscape is often tiered or sloped. To prevent further erosion, reestablish proper grading by redistributing soil to level out low spots and create gentle slopes. This will help prevent water pooling and encourage proper drainage. If areas have washed out, be sure to properly fill and compact these areas to prevent future problems.

4. Improve Drainage

Adequate drainage is crucial in the high desert environment to avoid waterlogging and facilitate efficient water movement. If your lawn lacks proper drainage, consider installing drainage channels, French drains, or using gravel beds to guide water away from the house and lawn area(s). Be mindful of the natural flow of water in the landscape when designing drainage solutions.

5. Reseed or Re-sod

Depending on the severity of the damage, you might need to reseed or re-sod your lawn. Choose grass species that are well-suited for the high desert climate, such as Kentucky bluegrass, fescue, or rye. If reseeding, ensure that the seeds make good contact with the soil by lightly raking the area after seeding. Remember, silt left from a flood is usually not a nutrient dense soil and is not best for establishing new grass.) Keep the newly seeded area consistently moist until the grass establishes itself.

6. Implement Native and Drought-Resistant Plants

Consider incorporating native plants and drought-resistant vegetation into your lawn. These plants have evolved to thrive in the high desert environment and are better equipped to withstand the challenges posed by floods and water scarcity. Native plants can also help stabilize the soil and help prevent or reduce future erosion.

7. Mulch or Rock Application

Applying mulch or rock to your yard can serve multiple purposes. Mulch helps retain moisture, suppresses weed growth, and protects the soil from erosion. Choose organic mulch materials like wood chips or bark. Apply a layer of mulch around the base of plants, being careful not to smother the plants. Rock is a more common option for the area and has many of the same benefits of mulch.

8. Irrigation Management

Proper irrigation is essential for your lawn’s recovery. Adjust your irrigation schedule to ensure that the lawn receives adequate moisture without overwatering. After a significant rainstorm and/or flood, you might not need to water for few days, but don’t turn your sprinklers off and forget about them as some warm windy days can dry the soil faster than many people realize.

9. Regular Maintenance

After the initial restoration efforts, consistent maintenance is key to ensuring your lawn’s long-term health and resilience. Regularly mow the grass at the appropriate height to encourage strong root development. Monitor for signs of pests, diseases, and nutrient deficiencies, and address them promptly to prevent further damage. Make any changes to help prevent future occurrences of past problems. Maybe this means adding a retaining wall, a drain, or making other alterations to your landscape.

To summarize, restoring a lawn in the high desert Utah landscape after a flood requires a comprehensive and informed approach. By carefully assessing the damage, improving drainage, reseeding with appropriate grass species, and implementing sustainable landscaping practices, you can help your lawn recover and thrive once again. Remember that the unique challenges of the high desert environment necessitate thoughtful consideration of native plants, irrigation strategies, and proper maintenance to ensure the long-term vitality of your lawn.

And remember, lawns are most “flood resistant” where watered and fertilized properly!

Healthy green grass in a vibrant healthy lawn