Planting in the rain

Contents

Why do upside down tree leaves mean rain

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How to Forecast the Weather

What it all means, basically, is that dry dust particles are in the atmosphere and can easily seen during sunset and sunrise. Most storms move from west to east. So, with the sun setting in the west, the red sky at night usually indicates dry weather due to that dust particles are being pushed towards you. With the sun rising in the east, the red sky in the morning indicates that the dust particles are being pushed away by an approaching low pressure.

Keeping an eye on the wildlife out there is a good way to forecast the weather as well. After all, they don’t have the benefits of turning on the weather channel and have had to learn the hard way to deal with the elements on a day-to-day basis.

  • Watch the birds in flight – when a low pressure hits, insects tend to stay low to the ground and the birds feeding on them can be seen doing the same.
  • Mosquitoes also go out on a biting frenzy just before rain, and crickets chirp quicker when warmer weather is on the way.
  • Spiders spin large webs during the mornings of dry, hot days and spin short webs or none at all if poor weather is imminent; some have even been known to break apart their webs just before a storm hits.
  • Bees and hornets seen taking casual flights indicate a warm day but if they hover around their hives then poor weather is on the way.
  • Bees and wasps are also thought to be more likely to sting prior to an approaching storm.
  • Woodpeckers are known to laugh louder and owls screech more before rain, because the drop in barometric pressure and the rise in humidity cause an uncomfortable swelling in their ear tissue.

And the same goes for us humans.
Experts in mental health have made the claim that a drop in barometric pressure makes us more irritable and when the forecast changes from fair to foul, so do our moods. We also suffer lethargy, dizziness, headaches, and depression. Our energy levels are even more short-lived and even pain tolerances has been shown to decrease. What’s to blame are ions in the air which affect the manufacturing of serotonin, which is a hormone connected to our sleep cycle, emotions and sexual stimulation.

How depressing. Not only are we crankier when it’s raining out, were opt to have less sex! No wonder weathermen have been known to lie about the forecast.

Rainy Day Activities for Kids

Predicting rain is easy, if you pay attention to the clues that nature gives you.

What You’ll Need:

  • Radio
  • Notepad
  • Pen or pencil

Predicting the weather isn’t a cinch, but you can look for hints about whether it’s about to rain. First, listen to the weather report on the radio. If rain is on the way, grab a notepad and head out.

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There are plenty of signs in nature to alert you if umbrella weather is coming. For instance, some flowers — like tulips and dandelions — close up when rain is heading in. Clover folds its leaves. Some trees know it’s going to rain, so they turn their leaves over to keep their tops dry. Many spiders take down their webs before a heavy rainstorm. Cows gather together and lie down in a field before the rain hits, and dogs often smell the air before a rainfall.

You’ll also notice that noises are a lot clearer and smells are much stronger just before it rains. When you’re outside, keep an eye, ear, or nose out to see if any of these things happen around your home. Write them on your notepad. If you do the same thing before a few more rainfalls, you’ll see how easy it is to predict rain without even listening to the weather report!

Now that you know how to tell if it is going to rain, turn to the next page to learn how to hold gutter races after it rains.

We are in the middle of a period of wet weather that is predicted to deliver multiple inches of rain to central Ohio and even more to other soaked parts of our state. Tomatoes are a crop that can suffer several problems related to heavy rainfall that can shorten the harvest period and affect yield. There are a few things that the backyard grower, community gardener and urban farmer can do to keep their tomato plants healthy and productive though heavy rain periods.

Key Garden Tasks to Keep Tomatoes Healthy in Wet Weather

  • Mulch – organic or non-organic can both be used. Be careful if your plasticulture is not permeable to air and water, the heavy constant rainfall may saturate the soil and drown the roots if the soil cannot dry out. Mulch also acts as a barrier to keep soil borne fungal spores off lower tomato leaves.
  • Fertility – contstant rainfall can leach fertility from soil making it unavailable to the plants. Make sure to monitor plant growth and health carefully to avoid a nutrient deficiency. Foliar feeding can be used when the ground is too saturated to irrigate with water soluble fertilizer.
  • Pruning – promote air circulation by pruning lower leaves. Try to minimize lower leaf contact with soil. Use sterilized pruners to remove any diseased leaves and make sure to put diseased leaves in the garbage and not the compost after pruning.

This plant needs mulched around the base to prevent soil borne fungal spore contact with leaves. Pruning of the lower leaves will also promote air circulation to assist in disease prevention.

These discolored leaves suggest fungal disease in this tomato plant. The leaves need pruned with sterilized pruners and then discarded into the garbage and not the compost pile.

This tomato has both organic and plasticulture mulch at the base to keep fungal spores in the soil and off plant leaves. Pruning needs to be done to allow air circulation at the base of the plant.

This tomato plant has had lower leaves removed for air circulation with a combination of compost and plasticulture mulch at the base of the plant.

Monitor tomatoes carefully for signs of blight, remove the diseased leaves promptly with sterilized pruners and dispose of disease materials in the garbage, not the compost pile.

Make sure to address fertility needs as production increases. Heavy rain can leach nutrients into the subsoil where they are unavailable to plants, decreasing yield as the season progresses.

Feel free to email [email protected] pictures of tomato problems to assist in diagnosis.

Ohio State University Extension has an excellent fact sheet on Growing Tomatoes in the Home Garden. There is also a plant disease diagnostic laboratory on campus where the grower can send samples if an accurate diagnosis needs confirmed on possible diseased leaves.

How long has it been since we had rain like this? A long, long time. So long, in fact, I had forgotten what a significantly rainy winter could do for a garden.

The beneficial effects of this wet winter are in full view. Plants look lusher, greener and cleaner than they have for half a decade at least.

When a gardener says, referring to rain, “We really need it,” you have to be a gardener to truly understand. You could deliver 14 inches of water — the amount of rain we have received since October — through sprinklers or hoses or drip emitters and your plants would not look as good or be as healthy as when the same amount of water, in the form of rain, is heaven-sent. This is a good argument for positioning rain barrels to collect runoff from your roof.

Rainwater collection is not just about saving water but about storing up a reserve of high-quality water for irrigation as well.

There are several reasons rainwater is more suitable for plants than tap water, but the most important is chemistry. In tap water, chlorine is a necessary disinfectant and fluoride is added to prevent cavities (as long as you drink one glass a day).

Nearly all plants, however, are susceptible to chlorine toxicity, usually expressed in burnt leaf margins. Indoor plants such as Dracaenas and spider plants (Chlorophytum comosum), pines, yuccas, and fruit trees, in particular, are subject to fluoride toxicity as well, with symptoms ranging from burnt, discolored, or spotted leaves to stressed fruit that may become diseased.

Calcium and magnesium make tap water hard and damaging to pipes, which is sometimes remedied by the addition of sodium as a water softener. But none of these mineral elements — which are much less concentrated in rainwater — do plants much good when delivered through a sprinkler system. The white sediment you see on the leaves of your plants is calcium and magnesium sediment from irrigation water, and sodium, like chlorine, is toxic to plant tissue.

Furthermore, sodium that reaches the ground is damaging to soil structure, too. In a productive garden, soil particles clump together in beneficial aggregates. Sodium, however, disperses these aggregates and creates cracks on the soil surface.

Plants look greener after it rains since air is 78 percent nitrogen and nitrogen, above all other elements, is what makes plants green. Some of this element, in its nitrate and ammonium forms, comes down in the rain and is immediately taken in by plants through roots and leaves.

Rainwater also contains more oxygen that tap water. You might think your plants are dangerously waterlogged as a result of excessive rain. Yet, whereas waterlogging may bring about anaerobic soil conditions and lead to root rot if you overwater your plants with tap water, the fact that rainwater is highly oxygenated may provide a margin of safety when soil is saturated after a downpour.

Carbon dioxide is also brought down to Earth to the benefit of plants when it rains. Carbon dioxide, when it combines with other minerals in the atmosphere, imparts to rainwater an acidic pH. When this acidic rainwater reaches the soil, it helps to release micronutrients such as zinc, manganese, copper and iron that are essential to plant growth but are mostly locked up in our local soil, which typically registers a neutral to alkaline pH. (Excessive pollutants in the air can produce so-called acid rain, which is harmful to plants, but is more of an issue in the Northeast than locally.)

Another benefit of rain is that it leaches salts down beyond the root zone. These salts, which are carried in irrigation water, accumulate throughout the soil profile and inhibit plant growth. When these salts are flushed through the soil after several years of accumulation, as is happening this winter, the effect is pronounced and the growth of plants is explosive.

Rain also distinguishes itself by the simple fact that it falls uniformly in the garden. This means that all of the soil is leached so that even the furthest reaches of a plant’s root zone will be bathed and cleansed of salt.

And, of course, rainwater will also wash off the mineral deposits, dust and pollutants that cover the leaves of all our plants, each and every one a survivor of the profoundly anti-horticultural urban environment that we call home.

The glowing visage of foliage after a rain is not just a beautiful sight to see but also a boon to photosynthesis. The process by which plants turn water and carbon dioxide into carbohydrate, which they then consume as life-sustaining energy food, photosynthesis is much more efficient when the light that reaches a plant’s leaves is not filtered by a layer of grit and grime.

In my own garden, I have been observing a butterfly bush (Buddleia sp.) for several years that had yet to develop into more than a few sticklike stems upon which a smattering of foliage could be seen. “Must be a patch of bad soil,” I muttered to myself.

Suddenly, this winter, said butterfly bush has put on more than 3 feet of lush new growth. I was more than ready to turn it into compost but now can hardly wait to see it bloom.

And my Peruvian lilies (Alstroemeria hybrid), which proliferate to form the classic no-muss-no-fuss ground cover, are already blooming again, much earlier than usual.

For the better part of a decade, I had been playing with a gerbera daisy (Gerbera jamesonii) that had been planted on the edge of a walkway where it could be shown off to best advantage. Sad to say, it flowered sporadically and declined in vigor from one year to the next. But after this winter’s rain, it has shown new life, as if only yesterday it was brought home from the nursery.

For more information about area plants and gardens, go to Joshua Siskin’s website at www.thesmartergardener.com. Send questions and photos to [email protected]

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PHOTO: Clive/Flickrby Jesse Frost September 28, 2017

Many of us know how devastating droughts can be to gardening, but rarely do we talk about how dangerous excessive rainfall can be. Tomato plants can drown, seeds can be washed away, mold and fungus can take over, and inches of topsoil can be be piled in the corner of your garden, leaving only gullies behind. Even if you don’t live in a low lying area, large amounts of rain can painfully disrupt your growing season. But there are ways you can prevent and prepare for damage from heavy rainfall, and also ways to train soil to take on more moisture.

1. Consider Garden Placement & Soil Type

The ideal garden to manage rain is flat with good drainage and sunlight. Unfortunately, such a scenario is not always available. So first, it’s important to look at soil types. Heavy clay will hold water longer than sandy soils, and thus might not let water pass through as quickly. Loamy and silty soils are preferred because they are somewhere in the middle, holding water for longer in dry periods, but also allowing for drainage. If you have a choice, avoid clay soils if standing water will be an issue. Also avoid flood plains where possible. If you can have your garden on higher ground, that is optimal, and if the garden must be on a hillside, consider pointing your paths downhill, so the water will drain off as it hits the compacted paths instead of standing.

2. Use Natural & Artificial Drainage

If your only garden option is at a high risk for standing water during and after rain, consider some drainage options. The first is amending your soil with sand to balance out the drainage. For small gardens, this might be reasonable work, whereas for very large gardens it might be a big endeavor. Also, it will help only so much. You will probably need to implement at least one other safeguard.

The second option is to add ditches around the garden to divert water away from crops. You can dig these with a trencher and fill them with a plastic lining, or just leave them as dirt ditches that point away from the garden.

Third, and perhaps most invasive, are drainage tiles. Installing drainage tiles (which are essentially perforated pipes or gutters) beneath your garden can help mitigate the risk of standing water from rain, increasing the drainage capacity. Research this well, as it will be a fairly large task, and you must consider the pipes before tilling or plowing. Of course, drainage tiles can also be placed uphill of, or around, your garden as well to mitigate excessive rainfall, but they should always be placed downhill in a way that sufficiently drains the water away from your crops.

3. Raise Your Beds

Raising your beds will, at the very least, reduce the amount of time plants have to sit in standing water after heavy rain. Raised beds also dry out faster, which can be good after an excessive rain event, but obviously bad during a drought. Weigh the odds of each, as they can both be disastrous, but for the most part it is easier to add water to a garden than it is to remove it.

4. Boost The Soil’s Organic Matter

One excellent way to avoid large puddles of standing water because of rain is to boost the soil organic matter of your garden. Organic matter absorbs moisture and helps evenly distribute rainfall. A healthy garden full of large quantities of organic matter can take on considerably more water than one low in it. To add organic matter, consider mulching more (described below), adding peat moss (with lime, as peat moss is acidic), or adding worm castings, which work to help spread out water. In fact, having more organic matter brings in more earthworms, which in turn create more worm castings––an easy and natural system of water management.

5. Create Mulching Paths

Adding wood chips, straw, or hay to your garden paths is an excellent way to not only add organic matter (as described above), but also to have a carbonaceous material in the garden that can absorb some water during and after rain. Because wood is fairly water-resistant, straw works better at first, though as wood chips break down they can better absorb and mitigate standing water. And again, the organic matter will help, and worms will love the cover. I say use a combination.

6. Leave No Soil Bare

Lastly, excess water can be mitigated by mulching around plants to add organic matter and absorptive material, but also by leaving your paths in clover or grass. You can mow these paths regularly, and the roots of the plants of will take up excess water. In fact, legumes such as clover will also add nitrogen to the soil, helping to feed the plants. Turning excess rain into food for your plants is good.

All About Rain Gardens

What Is A Rain Garden?

A rain garden is a garden of native shrubs, perennials, and flowers planted in a small depression, which is generally formed on a natural slope. It is designed to temporarily hold and soak in rain water runoff that flows from roofs, driveways, patios or lawns. Rain gardens are effective in removing up to 90% of nutrients and chemicals and up to 80% of sediments from the rainwater runoff. Compared to a conventional lawn, rain gardens allow for 30% more water to soak into the ground.

A rain garden is not a water garden. Nor is it a pond or a wetland. Conversely, a rain garden is dry most of the time. It typically holds water only during and following a rainfall event. Because rain gardens will drain within 12-48 hours, they prevent the breeding of mosquitoes.

Why Is Rainwater Runoff A Problem?

Every time it rains, water runs off impermeable surfaces, such as roofs or driveways, collecting pollutants such as particles of dirt, fertilizer, chemicals, oil, garbage, and bacteria along the way. The pollutant-laden water enters storm drains untreated and flows directly to nearby streams and ponds. The US EPA estimates that pollutants carried by rainwater runoff account for 70% of all water pollution.

Rain gardens collect rainwater runoff, allowing the water to be filtered by vegetation and percolate into the soil recharging groundwater aquifers. These processes filter out pollutants.

What Makes A Rain Garden Different From A Traditional Garden?

In the design of a rain garden, typically six to twelve inches of soil is removed and altered with tillage, compost and sand to increase water infiltration. The type of alteration to the soil depends on the current soil type, so it is a good idea to obtain a soil test.

Rain gardens are generally constructed on the downside of a slope on your property and collect rainwater runoff from the lawn, roof and/or the driveway. Once water collects in the rain garden, infiltration may take up to 48 hours after a major rainfall. Also, rain gardens incorporate native vegetation; therefore, no fertilizer is needed and after the first year, maintenance is usually minimal.

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Rainwater is best for watering your garden, but too much rain is hard on your soil and your plants. I was watching the morning news the other day, and the weatherman said we had rain 15 days out of the last 16. It rained again that day.

My garden is soggy, but most of it is still in pretty good shape. In this article, we’ll talk about wet garden solutions, including steps you can take to prevent damage, and what to do after heavy rains hit. Wet weather might slow plants down, but it doesn’t have to end your gardening season.

Too Much Rain in the Garden – How Much is Too Much?

A general rule of thumb for gardening is that plants need roughly one inch of rain per week. Your garden may need more or less depending on soil conditions, ground cover, temperature, and other factors. Some areas, like the Pacific northwest, are known for their heavy rainfall. Other areas, like our part of Wisconsin, are hit with too much rain only rarely. Note: I always recommend talking to local gardeners if possible before starting a garden in a new area. Odds are it will save you a lot of headaches to learn from their experience.

You know you have too much rain when your garden turns into a muddy mess. Plants droop and may even start to rot. (Roots need air in the soil. Too wet/too waterlogged, and they can drown.) You may have standing water in low lying areas. Slug populations are likely to boom. Molds, mildews and other fungal issues can quickly escalate. Don’t panic, but do take steps to help out your plants.

Raised Beds or Raised Rows to Dry Our Wet Dirt

If you know too much rain is likely, or you have wet, heavy soil, raised beds are the way to go. Elevating your planting area keeps it dry earlier in spring so you can plant earlier, and allows excess rain to drain away from roots.

The simplest raised bed is soil that is mounded up in a planting area. Walking is restricted to paths between the plant beds, avoiding soil compaction in the beds. This works well with sheet composting. Pile organic matter where you want your garden bed in fall, let it compost over winter, plant in spring.

Low box frames directly on the ground are the next step up, like these ready to assemble cedar garden beds. Some folks also plant in tires, or build frames from concrete blocks or other materials.

The next step up is self-watering planter beds. These planters channel excess water down to a reservoir at the base for later use. An example is the GlowPear Urban Garden Self-Watering Planter.

In our garden, we mound up soil in beds, and also mound up individual rows where needed. Most years, the wind dries out my garden too much, so higher raised beds would be counterproductive. Our wagon wheel garden has permanent paths between beds. In the larger rectangle beds, we make seasonal paths and do raised rows or hilling. An obvious example of this is the potato patch. This year, hilling the potatoes is a “must do”, not a maybe. In between the rows it’s squishy, but in the rows the potatoes are dry enough to keep chugging along.

At times the soil between these rows of potatoes has had standing water, but the potatoes are still going strong.

Adding Drainage for Wet Soil

If you have a short term problem, a simple trench funneling excess rain away from your garden may be enough. If soggy soil is an ongoing issue, a French drain or other drain tile may be a good idea. A French drain is a perforated pipe surrounded by gravel. Sod or other groundcover can be added over the top of the drain. The video below demonstrates the installation of French drain in a wet yard.

If you have a hillside in your garden that funnels water into your garden, it may make sense to put up a temporary barrier along the hillside to divert water away from your garden beds.

Mulch or No Mulch in a Wet Garden?

To mulch or not too mulch? My friend, Deb, shared her experience on Facebook:

Go light on the mulch. The mulch can actually slow the soil from drying out. One year when our area was basically flooded, we were able to see this in real life. About three rows of corn were mulched, and the rest was waiting for mulch. The mulched corn began to look washed out and grew very slowly while the unmulched pushed markedly ahead. Eventually it all yielded, but that was an interesting thing to see.

Too much mulch also creates more habitat for slugs to thrive. See “The Ultimate Guide to Natural Pest Control in the Garden” for tips on combating slugs and other pests.

On the flip side, mulch can help keep muddy soil from slashing up on the plants, reducing the chance of some soil borne fungal diseases. Mulch also spreads the force of your footfalls around, so mulched paths reduce soil compaction. I combine light mulch (1-2 inches of straw over old newspapers) with old boards in pathways. (Slugs sometimes hide under boards, so you can use them as slug traps. Flip boards over in the morning and remove the offenders sticking to the underside.)

Note: Later in 2017 we added five runner ducks to the mix, and they’ve been a tremendous help with the slug population later in 2017 and in 2018. You can read more about the Duck Patrol here.

In some areas, I’ve skipped the straw mulch entirely. Instead, I’m letting some weeds grow as living mulch to soak up excess rain. Deb shared another snippet on using weeds for excess rain:

When my daughter worked at the landscape business, they would purposefully let weeds grow in some of the pots. These used up excess soil moisture without stressing the trees.

You can read more about using weeds in the post, “5 Reasons I Want Weeds in My Garden“.

Too Much Water on Tomato Plants

Our beloved garden tomato plants also take a hit from too much rain. Different problems your waterlogged tomato plants may have include, but are not limited to:

  • Failure to thrive/drooping plants
  • Fungal diseases/blight
  • Blossoms but no fruit
  • Cracked fruit
  • Blossom end rot

Failure to Thrive/ Drooping Plants

First, let’s look at drooping, waterlogged plants. Tomatoes will put out new roots from the stem, so one option is to heap additional soil or compost around the base of the plant. This gives the plant a new root area above the wet soil. I used this to save my tomato patch during another extremely wet year. Even without added dirt, if you can improve drainage, with better weather the plants will likely recover.

Too much water on tomato plants – These plants were drowning after heavy rains, but I mounded up compost around their bases to give them dry areas to root.

Fungal Diseases/Blight

Fungal diseases love nothing better than damp conditions, and once started, they’re hard to stop. As mentioned above, light mulch will help slow down soil borne fungus. You can also remove leaves close to ground level to reduce the spread of spores. Some spores are carried on the wind, so you can’t avoid them entirely.

Growing tomatoes on a trellis improves air flow, reducing disease pressure. (This helps for other vine crops, too. See 5+ Terrific Tomato Trellises for trellis ideas.) Prune plants as needed to ensure good air flow and sun exposure. Dry conditions and sunlight both reduce fungal stress.

Remove diseased foliage and discard in the trash, or bag and take it to your local extension office for identification. (Clean clippers after use so you don’t spread the spores.) Cornell University has a good diagnostic page for tomato diseases.

To fight bad microbes with good microbes, consider using mycorrhizal fungi, compost tea or Effective Microorganisms in the garden to strengthen your plants’ defenses.

Blossoms But No Fruit

Pollinators have a hard time getting around in the rain, and wet pollen doesn’t carry well on the wind. For a variety of suggestions to help your tomatoes set fruit, see “Tomato Flowers but No Fruit – 9 Troubleshooting Tips.”

Cracked Fruit

Too much rain or moisture at one time can cause tomatoes to burst at the seams. This can also happen with other garden produce, such as radishes or melons. Once a fruit cracks, it’s best to use it as soon as possible. In the future, you can look for crack resistant varieties, or take steps to reduce soil wetness before the fruits are ripe.

Blossom End Rot

Blossom end rot is a black, rotten area at the blossom end of the tomato. It’s most common in extreme dry conditions, but also happens with extreme wet. The problem is caused because tomato plants can’t take up enough calcium from the soil. Common solutions include tomato fertilizers with added calcium, crush eggshells, garden line, and antacids. To learn more, visit “7 Steps to End Blossom End Rot and Get Rid of Black Bottomed Tomatoes“. Like cracked fruit, blossom end rot may also show up with other garden plants, such as summer squash or melons.

More Gardening Tips

Do you have other tips for dealing with heavy rains, or questions I haven’t addressed? Leave a comment below. As always, sharing is much appreciated. If you enjoy the post, let others know, too.

You may also find useful:

  • Rainwater Harvesting
  • Small Garden, Big Yield – 10 Tips for a Great Harvest
  • 20 Things I Wish I Had Before the Flash Flood Emergency

It’s raining, it’s pouring, my peppers look so boring!

This spring has sure been a wet one! Last spring I tried to battle growing tomatoes against the cloudy, wet weather and failed miserably. The sun didn’t come out long enough in between to help me to avoid the fatal blight disease that crept its way up my plants and demolished them. I didn’t bother planting them this year, and opted instead to fill my garden with all sorts of peppers that I assumed I would be plucking off and chopping into salsas by now. I assumed wrong. There is definitely a reason why we urge our customers who are just starting out in veggie gardening to make sure to pick a site with a lot of sun. And do our veggies ever need the sun right now! Have you ever brought a home a plant with thoughts of bountiful blooms, and then all you get is foliage? You then realize that your plant is not getting enough sun, so you move it and suddenly it explodes with flowers? Well that is what I would love to happen with my peppers, except I can’t move them. They are in the ground, and where I have them is the correct spot for a veggie garden; but as hard as I huff and puff up at the sky, I just can’t seem to move the clouds out of the way.

(Oh look! Another cloudy day!)

I’ve been checking almost daily to see if I can detect a blush creeping across my ‘Pinot Noir’ bell pepper, but so far, nada. The deep-wine hued pepper I’d envisioned bringing a little elegance to my salads, has stubbornly sat, an emerald green, practically camouflaged in the leaves of the plant. Same for my ‘King of the North’ red bell, and although I have fed my garden and watched diligently for pests, the rest of my peppers ( jalepenos, poblanos, serranos) are holding out on me too! The tiny bits of sun, short lasting that they are, have been the only thing keeping them going at this point. But they just don’t want to produce for me. If I cold insert an emoji in this blog, it would be the one with the steam flaring out of the nostrils! I’m frustrated.

(Not that it is a bad color, it’s just that it is suppose to be purple!)

I wish I could offer you an amazing product that could mimic the sun and get your veggies producing like crazy, but unless your plantings are in a greenhouse under grow lights, there is not much we all can do but sit back and wait. Actually, there is something you could do in the meantime. You can be hypervigilant about watching for disease and pests that come out of the woodwork during this type of weather. We might not be enjoying the foliage of our non-producing plants so much, but the caterpillars and slugs sure are! Plant hoppers and leaf footed bugs are abound and aphids can tuck themselves under a leaf and be perfectly happy. With the recurrence of rain, you may find yourself wanting to wait until the wetness goes away; but wait too long and you might find yourself with nothing left to spray anyway. Check for rain fastness on whichever products you choose, so you’ll know how often you will need to reapply. Don’t discount a hard blast of water from the hose. This is of course the least toxic method of getting rid of unwanted pests and should be tried first. You may be surprised how well it works. Disease also rears its ugly head during warm, wet, weather and should be attended to when first noticed. That ugly blight I talked about that attacked my tomatoes last year is a tough one, and many people have brought in samples of leaves from tomato and pepper plants already infected. Creating air circulation under your plants by stripping off infected and lower leaves can help slow the process of the disease, as well as mulching plants to create a barrier against the soil and preventing it from splashing up on the leaves of your plants. A fungicide spray containing copper can also slow the process of disease. I’m adding a couple of links here to some past Happy Gardener blogs that address certain pests and fungus problems. Feel free to reference them to any issues you may be facing.

Sayonara, Suckers!

The Chompers

Holy Leaf Blight, Batman!

(Yessss, yesssss, we love to munch in the rain!)

(When bad things happen to good tomatoes!)

All in all, we have to remember that gardening is a series of events. Some successful, some not, and some are completely out of our control. We celebrate our harvests, and we mourn our losses, but we also remember that there is always another season. And one sure thing about the weather in San Antonio, Texas is that Mother Nature always seems to have a surprise up her sleeve for us. A week forecast of rain can clear up in heartbeat as well as going the other direction. So maybe we should stop wringing our hands and let be what will be. Now if you’ll excuse me, I am going to go look up recipes for immature, green peppers. There’s got to be some out there, right? I’m trying hard to look at the bright side. When life gives you rain, make a rain barrel! Pssst. You really can, we’ve got a workshop coming up……Rain Barrel Workshop.

(Roar! Insert “pulling out hair” emoji!)

-The Happy Gardener

-Lisa Mulroy

Excessive Rain On Plants: How To Garden In Wet Ground

To a gardener, rain is generally a welcome blessing. Wet weather and plants are usually a match made in heaven. However, sometimes there can be too much of a good thing. Excessive rain on plants can cause plenty of trouble in the garden. Overly wet weather causes diseases via bacterial and fungal pathogens fostered by long term moisture on foliage and root systems. If your garden is in region of plentiful rainfall or has just been hit by storms, you might be wondering how to garden in wet ground and what are the effects of wet weather on the garden.

Effects of Wet Weather in Gardens

As mentioned above, excessive rain on plants promotes disease often evidenced in stunting, spots on foliage, decay on leaves, stems or fruit, wilting and, in severe cases, death of the entire plant. Extreme wet weather also keeps pollinators at bay affecting bloom and fruiting.

If your plants exhibit these symptoms, it may be too late to save them. However, by monitoring and early recognition, you may be able to avert disaster in the garden due to excessive rain on plants and the resulting diseases that plague them.

Wet Weather Diseases

There are a number of wet weather diseases that may afflict the garden.

Anthracnose – Anthracnose fungi spread on deciduous and evergreen trees during overly wet seasons and usually begin on lower branches, gradually spreading up the tree. Also called leaf blight, anthracnose appears as dark lesions on leaves, stems, flowers and fruit with premature leaf drop.

To combat this fungus, rake and dispose of tree detritus during the growing season and fall. Prune in the winter to increase air flow and remove infected limbs. Fungicidal sprays can work, but are impractical on large trees.

Powdery mildew – Powdery mildew is another common disease caused by excessive rain. It looks like a white powdery growth on leaf surfaces and infects new and old foliage. Leaves generally drop prematurely. Wind carries powdery mildew spores and it can germinate even in the absence of moisture.

Sunlight and heat will kill off this fungus or an application of neem oil, sulfur, bicarbonates, organic fungicides with Bacillius subtillis or synthetic fungicides.

Apple scab – Apple scab fungus causes leaves to curl and blacken and black spots appear on rose bush leaves during rainy seasons.

Fire blight – Fire blight is a bacterial disease that affects fruit trees, such as pear and apple.

Iron chlorosis – Iron chlorosis is an environmental disease, which prevents roots from in taking enough iron.

Shot hole, peach leaf curl, shock virus, and brown rot may also assault the garden.

How to Garden in Wet Ground and Prevent Disease

As with most things, the best defense is a good offense, meaning prevention is the key to disease management during rainy seasons. Sanitation is the number one cultural technique to manage or prevent disease. Remove and burn any diseased leaves or fruit from not only the tree or plant, but from the surrounding ground as well.

Secondly, select cultivars that are resistant to disease and situate them on high ground to prevent root rot. Plant only those cultivars that thrive in wet environments and avoid those that are native to drier regions.

Disease spreads easily from plant to plant when leaves are wet, so avoid pruning or harvesting until the foliage has dried off. Prune and stake the plants to improve aeration and increase dry time after heavy rainfall or dewy mornings. Improve soil drainage if it is lacking and plant in raised beds or mounds.

Remove any infected plant parts as soon as you see them. Remember to sanitize the pruners before moving on to other plants so you don’t spread the disease. Then either bag and dispose or burn infected leaves and other plant parts.

Finally, a fungicide may be applied either prior to or early in the development of disease.

Why on earth would you want to try gardening in the rain? It’s a perfectly reasonable question. But, daft as it may seem, there are a surprising number of benefits if you’re prepared to brave the elements. And as our wet summer becomes an even wetter autumn, getting outside on drizzly days will enable you to get a huge amount more done in the garden. Plus, cloudy weather makes for cooler air, which is always a relief for hardworking gardeners. The damp keeps away most insects and, of course, the rain waters your plants for you. So grab your coat, and get outside!

What Can You Do in the Rain?

  • Planting. One common concern that puts people off gardening when it’s wet is whether you can really plant in the rain. In actual fact, it’s fine – as long as there’s no standing water. Just use a pot, or place in the garden, that has good drainage. For new seedlings, planting in the rain can be of great benefit since you don’t have to worry about watering them.
  • Feeding. As well as sitting back and making the most of the rain watering your plants for you, you can take the opportunity to feed them too. Get out there with your fertiliser and sprinkle around the base of each plant. The rain will then help it to run straight into the roots for maximum uptake.
  • Harvesting. Some fruiting plants and vegetables love wet weather, and will produce lots of great crops for you to harvest. So while the season is rainy, it’s the perfect time for picking salad plants like lettuce and watercress, or herbs like mint.

What Can You Do After the Rain?

  • Weeding. Just after a good downpour is the perfect time to get your weeding done. Heavy rainfall means damp soil, which loosens up the weeds’ roots, making them much easier to extract. This is particularly useful for weeds which are notoriously difficult to remove, such as dandelions and those with taproots. Taproots are the thick, original root stems of weeds like creeping buttercup and wood sorrel. It’s much better to get taproots out while the soil is wet so that all the offshoot roots also slide from the earth, since if they break off they can regrow into new plants.
  • Edging. If you’ve ever tried to neaten up the borders of your lawn, you’ll know it can be a challenge to dig a crisp edge in the turf. Garden edging – usually plastic or metal strips – are the best solution for maintaining a trim border, and just after a rainy day is the best time to install it. Just like with weeding, the damp soil is your friend here. It’s much easier to shape with a spade or trowel, and the edging pins will sink into the ground much more freely.
  • Tidying. Though rain is of course essential to a healthy garden, it can also leave a few problems in its wake. When you go outside after a downpour, look for anything that’s been washed out of place, particularly soil or fertiliser. Make sure you turn the compost heap too, if it’s an open one, to help with the air circulation and prevent it getting waterlogged.

How Can You Prepare Your Garden for the Rain?

Not all parts of your garden are going to appreciate a real British deluge, so it’s best to be prepared. If you’ve just planted seeds they may be vulnerable, but simply covering them with a plastic cloche or sheeting should shelter them from the worst of the weather. If you have fragile plants in pots, an easy alternative is just to bring them inside while the weather is bad.

What to Wear for Gardening When It Rains

Gardening can be mucky, and never more so than when it’s pouring outside. But don’t let that put you off – with the right clothing you can easily stay warm and dry. Obviously a raincoat is a must. But it’s also worth investing in a pair of waterproof trousers if you’re going to be outdoors for a while, as normal materials will quickly become soaked through and weigh you down. You’ll want something to cover your head, but a waterproof hat is actually better than a hood for gardening since it allows for more flexible neck movement as you’re working outside. For your feet, walking boots are generally more practical than wellies. They’re lighter and don’t restrict your ankles, which makes it much easier for trampling through undergrowth and flowerbeds. Just make sure to check if your boots need spraying with a waterproofing agent first.

Useful Kit to Cope with the Showers

  • Greenhouse. Although more of an investment, a greenhouse will offer a permanent sheltered spot for gardening in a downpour. You’ll be able to get on with repotting and planting seeds whenever the weather decides to turn. It can also be a useful area to have for unexpected rainfall, as you can shift delicate plants undercover in an instant without having to worry about causing a mess indoors.
  • Garden track. One of the best ways to deal with the muddy ground rainfall causes is some garden track. This is a plastic roll out path that provides a solid surface to ensure you don’t slip over on the wet lawn, and is especially useful for stopping wheelbarrows sinking into sodden earth.
  • Garden shade. Sometimes you may just want to relax in your garden without the risk of sudden rain spoiling your day. Having an awning or shade sail installed is a great way to cover your furniture or guests when you’re entertaining outside. No more events ruined by bad weather!

So I hope some of these ideas have inspired you to not be downcast the next time the clouds appear on your gardening day. As we’ve seen, there are always a few bits and pieces you can crack on with in the wet weather, and even some benefits that the rain brings. It’s a garden essential. And if all else fails, stay inside, put your feet up and enjoy a nice cup of tea. After all, you were out working hard in the garden all summer…

George works in the Primrose marketing team. As a lover of all things filmic, he also gets involved with our TV ads and web videos.

George’s idea of the perfect time in the garden is a long afternoon sitting in the shade with a good book. A cool breeze, peace and quiet… But of course, he’s usually disturbed by his energetic wire fox terrier, Poppy!

He writes about his misadventures in repotting plants and new discoveries about cat repellers.

See all of George’s posts.

Top Tips for Wet Weather Gardening

Don’t you love it when it rains?

… and hate it when it rains TOO MUCH!

All gardens need adequate moisture but periods of heavy rainfall, storms and runoff can bring you a truckload of challenges. These include:

  • waterlogged plants;
  • leaching of soil nutrients;
  • erosion; and
  • pest and disease problems.

11 Wet Weather Gardening Tips

Want to minimise these common issues? Dig into these wet weather gardening tips to learn how.

I’m into ‘designing out’ problems whenever I can – both in my own garden and for my clients.

Good observation, a bit of thought and planning can help reduce the impact of water-based problems. These are some of the strategies I use to help avoid these issues.

Garden Design & Water Management

1. Good Drainage

  • Elevate your garden by planting in raised beds or mounds. This can help prevent waterlogged plant roots and anaerobic soil.
  • Grow in containers and use vertical systems. Examples include: window boxes, wall mounted or railing planters, pots on ladders and plant stands which all drain well.
  • Another alternative is to use pots on wheels or castors so you can move them around to a more sheltered position.

Hanging baskets also provide good drainage.

2. Dig a Trench or Swale

It’s unsustainable to wate valuable rainwater in heavy downpours and pay for water when it’s dry. Instead, passively harvest it by redirecting water to where you need it most. Swales are a useful Permaculture design feature and are especially useful if your garden is on a slope.

You build a swale (raised mound) on contour to passively soak up water as it flows down the slope. A swale slows rain water down and allows it to sit in a shallow trench to soak into the soil.

Swales are also useful for harvesting water for thirsty food plants like bananas and fruit trees which can be planted on top of the mounds.

3. Add Organic Matter to your Soil

Adequate soil humus holds moisture like a sponge, where your plants need it most. Humus is the completely decomposed rich black soil and provides a buffer to plants under stress.

A good soil structure helps the excess moisture drain away. If you have a sandy soil, it will drain well but not hold moisture or nutrients. Whereas a clay soil holds moisture but has poor drainage so roots can rot if it becomes waterlogged. In dry weather, it can crack!

If you have soil with poor structure, it’s even more important to add organic matter. For example, manures, leaf mould, grass clippings, compost, lucerne and other mulches.

A soil rich in humus and worms is well aerated, allowing tiny pockets of oxygen around the root zone.

4. All Tied Up

To reduce the risk of common diseases during wet weather, support plants with stakes and ties or other vertical structures so the foliage is not lying on wet soil. Growing vertically increases airflow around the plant and avoids overcrowding.

5. Give Pests a Hard Time

  • Slugs and snails thrive in wet weather and I’m not going to make it easy for them to feast on my plants! So using tepees and growing vertically makes it an uphill climb deterrent!
  • If slugs and snails have to climb a high rise stake or ladder for breakfast, they’re exposed. So it’s much easier for birds to see their next meal!
  • I also sprinkle crushed eggshells around the base of delicate seedlings. Why? The sharp edges are like a ‘bed of nails’ for their soft slimy tummies and extremely effective at keeping them away until young plants are established. Baked on a tray in a slow oven for 10 minutes, the eggshells become very hard and crunch perfectly into large shards in your hand. I keep a container of these handy for all new seedlings – wet weather or not! I know there are beer traps you can make but heck – why waste a good ale when you can use eggshells instead?!

These crushed eggshells were added as a ‘bed of nails’ to deter slugs after they attacked these nasturtium seedlings. There was no sight of any further damage after this remedy and they fully recovered!

6. The Magic of Mulch

A layer of mulch helps you take advantage of free rainwater as it helps retain vital moisture in the soil. Other benefits are that it also reduces splashing which encourages plant diseases and prevents soil erosion by providing a buffer.

Mulch slows water down so it can permeate gently through to the root zone and drain more freely throughout the soil.

7. Slow Release Fertiliser

Feeding your soil with trace rock minerals and slow release granules, pellets or powdered organic fertilisers can help retain nutrients in your soil. Remember to replenish nutrients lost to leaching during heavy rain.

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The more humus you have in your soil, the less leaching will occur as it helps bind minerals.

Plants will quickly become nutrient deficient if their food source in the soil is depleted and you’ll often notice a change in their leaf colour. If plants look a bit sickly after a week of solid rain the minerals may have leached out. The leaves will give you a clue when to feed!

8. Apply a foliar spray

A quick spray of liquid kelp/seaweed or fish emulsion to plant leaves is a good standby tonic to help plants bounce back fast.

Plants can ‘drink’ the trace elements through their leaves much faster than they can suck up nutrients from the soil.

9. Harvest Your Food Crops Regularly

Pick edible plants promptly in humid wet weather. Why? Because the longer produce stays on the vine or stalk, the higher the likelihood of spoilage, pest attack or disease.

10. Water Management Practices

As a general rule particularly in humid weather, avoid watering plant leaves. Splashing creates a breeding ground for fungal spores (which cause mildews and mould diseases) and can transfer them from one plant to another.

Drip irrigation, a soaker hose or a watering can may be safer alternatives.

11. Design IN a water feature

If you have a natural low-lying area in your garden, collect the run-off and harvest water rather than letting it escape! Add a simple pond and plant or move water loving plants into that zone so their roots soak up the moisture and leave plants that like dry feet alone!

Create habitat for beneficial insects like dragonflies who dine out on mosquitoes (no accounting for taste!) and other small birds, lizards and creatures that help you with pest management in your garden. Think ‘win-win’!

What sort of water issues do you have in your garden? How have you resolved your problems? Learn how to restore a waterlogged garden; read some helpful garden maintenance tips or check out some clever design ideas! Thanks for stopping by.

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3 Quick Tips for Gardening After the Rain

Photo by Linda Ly

After Southern California’s much-needed moisture this past week, your garden is likely giving a sigh of relief. Even with all the mud, gardening after the rain is one of my favorite ways to get outside, get dirty, and breathe in the freshness of damp earth. Soil just feels more alive after a good soak; the worms are stirring, the microbes are working, and together they aerate and nourish the ground in ways you can’t even see at the surface.

To keep your garden looking good this spring, check off these three simple tasks that are best done after the last storm passes.

#1 Start weeding. All that rain, along with the longer days of the season, means the weeds will start sprouting with a vengeance. (Luckily, rain softens the soil, making weeding much easier on the hands and back.) Tackle them now while they’re seedlings to prevent them from taking over your garden. Common weeds like creeping wood sorrel (what many people mistake for clover, as it has shamrock-like leaves) spread by putting out thin, creeping stems along the ground which readily root at the nodes. That means they multiply rapidly and grow in thick clumps, becoming quite invasive if left to spread in the confines of a raised bed.

Dandelions, another common weed, have long taproots that will send up new shoots if you don’t pull up the entire root. Pick them while they’re small as they more easily release from the soil. If you have dandelions growing in a protected part of your yard (and you don’t use pesticides), they’re among the most nutritious greens you can eat! Weed them before dinner and you’ll have an instant, free, and nutrient-packed salad that beats even the best kale!

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#2 Spread some mulch love. To keep the weeds at bay after you’ve pulled them all up, spread a 2- to 3-inch thick layer of organic mulch on your soil. Not only will the mulch smother any weeds straining to poke up through the ground, it’ll help hold in moisture and warm the soil, which is especially important after all the rain.

Mulch also keeps the soil from eroding (and the rain from washing away all the nutrients) if we have another deluge in the spring. If you have existing plants in your garden bed, mulch around the stems (leaving a “moat” of a few inches around) and not right next to the stem, as it could cause rot.

To mulch large areas, lay down pieces of cardboard and apply a thin layer of organic mulch to keep everything looking tidy. Cardboard is highly effective at killing weeds as it deprives the seeds and plants of sunlight and passage, and it will biodegrade naturally by the end of the season, making more mulch.

#3 Turn the compost heap. If you have an open-air compost heap in your backyard, you’ll want to fluff it up with a garden fork. Turn it over, stir it up, and give it some good aeration after it’s been soaked and compressed by several days of rain. If the compost is still very wet after a week of forking and air drying, balance it out by adding your browns — that is, a healthy helping of dried leaves or shredded paper to help absorb the excess moisture.

Overly wet compost can’t breathe; it suppresses aerobic bacteria (the ones breaking down all the organic matter) and introduces anaerobic bacteria (the ones that cause compost to smell rotten). Above-ground compost heaps need good air circulation to properly decompose. You’ll want to do the same thing even if you have a closed compost heap, as heavy rain can easily leak into a lidded bin or compost tumbler.

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