Thursday, July 17, 2014

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Garden Training for Excess Raining

I thought I had a handle on just how wet the summer has been. My rain gauge (that measures 100ths of an inch, I'm proud to say) recorded 9.30" for June. I just spoke with a fellow horticulturist who was telling me that she was pruning and found gangs of slugs hiding in yew branches four feet off the ground. We've revealed a new definition of saturation point: So wet that even slugs seek higher ground!

Short of dragging water-soaked containers under overhangs or setting up umbrellas over drought-tolerant perennials, there's only so much a person can do to stem the flood waters. Here are a few proactive things that may help save plants after the recent deluges.

Override the Sprinkler System 
Congrats to those folks that have automatic overrides. For those that have manual controls, please consider shutting off your system on an as-needed basis! We've all seen sprinklers gushing water in the middle of a downpour. In addition to the ecological benefits of conserving water, think about the dollar savings.

Drain Your Saucers
Plants in containers (with holes in the bottom) have much better drainage than plants in our clay-laden garden soils. Hanging baskets or decorative pots with saucers (attached or otherwise) must be checked daily and emptied. The potting mix will have absorbed all the moisture it can hold after 30 minutes. After that, roots are dying. So, be extra vigilant about water removal with all the rain we've been receiving.

Formerly full begonias

Remember to Fertilize
Nutrient deficiencies may start showing up in plants on a patio near you, namely yours. Most potting mixes are "soilless". They are either coarse peat or bark-based to promote drainage. They have minimal nutrient content regardless of whether the bag says "Fertilizer Added" or not. Constant rainfall, like our own frequent watering, leaches nitrogen out of the bottom of the pot. Nitrogen is responsible for leaf and stem growth, as well as leaf color. Add a complete fertilizer (nitrogen, phosphorous and potash-containing) to keep your plants in tip-top shape as needed.  

Control the Slugs
Populations of slugs and earwigs are exploding. Protect hostas, lettuce, spinach and other slug faves with the iron phosphate baits. They are applied directly to the ground under and around your ornamentals and vegetables. The varmints eat the bait and crawl away to die within a day or two.

Chewed on petunia
Check New Plantings Daily
Newly planted perennials, shrubs and trees that were container grown will need to be checked daily for water. Remember they've been potted in a coarse mix to promote drainage. That doesn't change because they're out of the pot and in the ground. It is possible that the day after a good rain the root ball of your new plant could be dry, even while the surrounding soil is wet. Never assume anything about rainfall and new plants.  

Check Before Watering
Wilting plants MAY or MAY NOT indicate a need for water. Ironically, plants wilt when they're standing in water just the same as if they're bone dry. So, before you water that wilting Hydrangea or coleus in the midday sun, check the mulch or soil surface to see if it's moist. If so, wait a few hours and revisit the plant in the cooler part of the day, and see if it hasn't returned to normal. If not, water may be needed.

Water stress-induced leaf roll on tomato

Preventative Treatments
Use fungicides preventatively on plants with a past history of fungal issues. Roses and black spot, tomatoes and blight(s), Garden phlox and powdery mildew, are among the common health issues to be expected with constant rainfall and high humidity. Again, prevention of further infection is the goal. Present symptoms will not be reversed.

Enjoy the lush growth in your garden because of, and in spite of, the incredible rainfall!!!









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