Judy BiggFloods sweep away our garden

My husband and I live in the upper Tweed Valley, northern New South Wales on 5 acres. A major creek traverses our property. For the past 8 years we have regenerated our creek banks with native vegetation and landscaped and planted a mix of exotics and natives in our house yard garden, making around 2 acres in total that we maintain.

The garden becomes a fast-flowing river


We are used to heavy and high rainfalls living in this part of Australia. Thursday 30 March, 2017 started the same as any other wet day in northern NSW. We were told to expect heavy falls of 300 – 400 mm over the next 36 hours as the remains of ex Tropical Cyclone Debbie made its way down the east coast of Australia. We had experienced these falls before so were not overly concerned. My husband was working in Brisbane, 150 kms away and was due home on Friday. We ended up receiving more than 1000 mm over 48 hours. Almost our yearly rainfall!

To say that we and many others were unprepared for the onslaught of water and destruction that ensued is an understatement. Some people lost everything, including lives of loved ones. We are so thankful the water did not get into our house. Our creek broke its banks at around 10am and was flowing through the front garden. Not too bad, I thought. At least it was flowing and could get away. A short time later I noticed a strong dirt smell in the air. I opened the front door and was met with muddy creek water rushing past and moving in towards our front and side doors. I starting using a broom to sweep it away. I thought

I’ll ring the SES and ask if anyone is in the area could they drop off some sand bags.

Ridiculous I know, but at the time it made sense. I was told that I was unreachable. Also the major highway was flooded and my husband would not make it home. Panic set in and I desperately tried to redirect the creek water that had nowhere else to go. In our front garden the creek water was taking away 8 years of mulch, landscaping and soil.

We ended up with a lot of debris in our boundary fence that included leaves, grass, sticks. I have stockpiled it and wondered if I could use it to re-mulch the garden. I gathered some good information from the Kate Wall article and after clearing the silt and debris away from the plants and tree bases, will apply the seaweed solution, organic fertiliser and replace the lost mulch. I’d used bales of sugar cane mulch as it was readily available and a reasonable price. However many sugar farms here were flooded and the next harvest is not until June so I may have to find an alternative mulch.

Uprooted and damaged plants are strewn across the garden


At our creek’s causeway the force of the floodwater was flattening 8 year old native trees, ripping out younger ones, gouging out soil and rocks and trying to take the lomandras but they hung on, tenacious as ever. Our second driveway gone. The rain continued for another 24 hours. The creek raged for a few days more. We lost power and phone.

Eight year old trees are flattened by the fast-flowing flood water


At our creek’s causeway we lost trees and inches of top soil. We propped up the remaining trees, taking off the balls of debris attached to the leaves and staked them upright for support. We felt it important to get them upright as soon possible. We’re not sure if we should prune them to reduce their height as we’re not sure if pruning would add to their stress. Now we just have to wait and see what survives and what doesn’t. But overall we think we were the lucky ones.



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Judy Bigg

About Judy Bigg

I am an amateur gardener, having a passion for gardening since a child. Creating and nurturing my home gardens in both urban and rural sub tropical settings, I have spent the past 8 years regenerating a bush block in northern New South Wales with my husband; and as a volunteer and member of our local Landcare group.

7 thoughts on “Floods sweep away our garden

  1. Oh Judy, what a devastating time you have had after all that work, I am so sad for you, but gardeners never give up and I’m sure you won’t either. All the best for the future.

  2. We had a major cyclone in December and it knocked out around 40% of our tree cover. Hundreds of thousands of beautiful mature trees all gone. The worst part of this was that we didn’t use any of the fallen organic material.The municipal just collected all of them and wasted a lot of fuel taking them outside the City only to burn it all!
    I suggest you use a shredder and get that all of those fallen trees back into the ground. This will at least start the process of getting those 8 years of mulch back.
    Good luck Judy!

    • How devastating for you to lose so much tree cover. A profound change to your landscape. We were lucky that some of our drowned trees were not uprooted so we’ve pruned them and with stakes and ties have got them upright. And yes, we’ve mulched our fallen trees. Thanks Harihara.

  3. Hi Judy, I am glad you found some benefit in my article, although of course I would prefer that you didn’t need to! Take heart – with the care you are now giving the garden will recover to a large extent. As Harihara says, try to reuse your green waste as much as you can. I have also had to stake trees and hope they make it, including after this event. If the root system has been badly damaged you may need to prune some of the foliage but that may also depend on the type of tree. I like to also add some good quality rock minerals (I prefer Garden Mate, a local product from Toowoomba) for the extra strength this gives and the plant available phosphorus this contains as this helps to develop roots.
    I was talking at the Tamborine Mountain Garden Club last week where they suffered a similar fate to you. The president joked that if anyone was making a trip to Coomera would they please take a trailer and bring some of their soil back!
    Good luck with your garden recovery!

    • Thanks Kate. I’ll check out what rock minerals is available for sale in my area. Yes, so much precious top soil lost and we have so little in this country. Luckily we are in the upper reaches of the Tweed valley and the silt and debris that the creek water dumped on us was from national parks so with some additives of compost and manures, am hoping I can turn it into suitable garden mulch. Fingers crossed!

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