Wet weather poses challenges for gardeners

July 10, 2013 

As many of you know, I like to fish. Maybe it is obvious because I have three boats.

This probably seems excessive, but in my defense, I got one for free and I bought one used. Recently though, I have been tempted to break out all the boats in case it did not quit raining.

One boat would be for Donna and me, one for the children and one for the pets. It has been so wet I heard they called in Noah as a weather consultant.

Actually, the wet weather is nice. Crops are growing well, though somewhat delayed. Gardens in general look good, and lawns are green instead of the brown color we see in drier years. However, the rain causes some unique problems in the landscape. You need to be thinking about these when heading out to garden.

Constant wet weather can encourage leaf spot diseases on shrubs and flowers. These diseases are caused by fungi and bacteria that love wet weather. Round to slightly irregular spots appear on the leaves of shrubs, flowers, fruits and vegetables. If the spots get numerous, the leaves may completely die or fall off. If you look in the center of the spots, you may see black spots that are the spores of the fungus -- preparing to spread the diseases.

Although these leaf spots are often caused by fungi, just spraying a fungicide is not usually the best control. The disease is already in the leaves, and fungicides cannot kill fungi inside of plants. Fungicides usually only prevent the disease from spreading. You will have to regularly spray the plant as new leaves emerge to prevent more leaf spots -- and this may not be feasible. If you decide to use a fungicide spray, you must first identify the disease to make sure you select the correct fungicide. Contact your local Extension Office for assistance.

The plant probably will not die from the leaf spot. In many cases, you can either ignore the disease or just use control practices other than fungicides. Hybrid tea and related roses are an exception. If you do not treat them regularly with a fungicide, they may die from black spot disease. Tea roses are one plant that needs a regular fungicide treatment.

Other methods of slowing the spread of leaf spots include raking up fallen leaves, removing badly infested leaves and keeping the foliage as dry as possible -- especially from 3-10 p.m. If you remove leaves, put them in the trash -- not the compost pile.

Some shrubs and trees may be suffering from wet feet. Roots need water, but they also need oxygen. Too much water can drown the roots. Then the top begins to wilt, yellow and brown and the leaves die. Too much water can kill a plant faster than too little water.

Inspect the landscape for places where water collects -- places where downspouts deposit water, low areas or beds that are surrounding by buildings or walks on all sides. Look for ways to re-direct the water or install plants that are more wet-feet tolerant.

Heavy rains can lead to smaller roots and overgrown tops, and heavy winds may topple affected plants. Some plants may need additional staking. We know to stake plants like tomatoes, gladiolus and other tall flowers. You may need to stake new trees and shrubs, some vegetables like peppers and eggplant and top heavy flowers.

Excess rain leaches fertilizer. You may need to fertilize a little more often, especially on sandy soils. It is best to apply small amounts in several small doses. Plants needing more fertilizer may have yellow older leaves, smaller leaves and yellowing between the veins. Use a premium grade fertilizer -- one containing sulfur, magnesium and micronutrients as well as nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. You can apply it on top of mulch and water it in. Never pile all the fertilizer in one place; scatter it evenly around the plant.

Rains can make lawns grow into a jungle. Until rains slow, do not fertilize lawns. If the lawn is too tall, slowly reduce its height. Try not to mow wet lawns. Collect clippings if you must mow an overgrown lawn.

Willie Chance works with the University of Georgia Center for Urban Agriculture and helps to train the turf and landscape industry.

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