Monday, June 11, 2012

What to Watch for in the Garden After All the Rain

Hello again,

Good gardening friend Paul Parent of the Paul Parent Garden Club sends out a great newsletter every week with pertinent gardening topics. I encourage you to go to his website to sign up for his newsletter. Paul can also be heard every Sunday morning from 6 AM to 10 AM at his website or at WBACH (104.7 FM) every Sunday morning from 6 AM to 9 AM.

Recently Paul sent out a great post about what to do in the garden after all this rain. He brings us some great pointers:
"This (past) week brought us heavy rain, cool temperatures, and not much sunshine--a real plus if you just planted shrubs or trees on your property. But if you planted seeds in the garden, you may have to replant when the ground dries out this weekend. The southern part of New England received 3 inches of rain-- but the northern part broke records with 6 to 8 inches of rain early in the week. My gardens in Kennebunk, Maine won't have to be watered for many days, with the 7-plus inches that I received. The heavy rain also woke up thousands of weeds that were not there before the storm, so that means several hours of weeding ahead.

What to look for this week around your gardens:

New weeds in your gardens will have to be removed and the gardens will have to be cultivated--but wait until the ground dries out and the sun comes out again to help dry out the ground and the weeds you disturb. Keep out of the gardens or you will compact the soil around the plants and slow root development and plant growth. If you had standing water in your gardens, it's a sign of heavy soil or clay preventing proper drainage. Apply Garden Gypsum at the rate of 50 pounds per 500 to 1000 sq. ft. of garden to help open up the soil and improve drainage or use Soil Logic Liquid "Gypsum" according to directions. Apply gypsum products when the garden dries out over the weekend to prevent root rot problems.

With all that rain, you will have to fertilize again as most fertilizers have been washed out of the soil. Organic fertilizers or time-release plant foods should be OK but they will have to be reapplied in the next 3 to 4 weeks, late June as some of the power has been washed away. Liquid plant fertilizers and granular chemical plant foods like 10.10.10 or 5.10.5 have been washed out of the soil totally with all the rain and should be reapplied once the ground dries out next week. Lawn fertilizer has also lost some of its power and I would apply the summer fertilizer in late June this year--not middle to late July as in most summers.

Your biggest challenge will be cleaning up the flowers in your annual and perennial gardens. Plants like petunias and geraniums have lost all their flowers due to the weather and they should be pinched off the plant to prevent gray mold from spreading to the new flower buds. Also pick off all the yellow leaves, if possible, to prevent future disease problems. When the sunny weather returns, spray all your plants with Serenade organic fungicide or Bonide Copper spray to destroy disease spores on the plants.

The timing of the storm was devastating to peonies, poppies, lupine, iris, and many more perennials, as they were in full bloom at the time. You wait a year for the flowers to develop and with one storm the flowers are destroyed ,so cut back the plant and clean them up so the plant can make new foliage and work on developing flower buds for next year. Plants that were flattened by the rain should also be staked up so the foliage can stay disease-free. Also...slugs and snails will become more numerous now so apply bait around plants that slugs love to feed on like hostas, lettuce, spinach, kale, marigolds, and dahlias. (We HIGHLY recommend Slug Magic by Bonide. The sluges and snails are chomping on a huge variety of plants at night. Today I saw lupine leaves that were barely recognizable but the shredded remains were clear signs of slug feasting. Slug Magic is not toxic but is very effective at "filling up" slugs so they leave your garden!)

The rose chafer beetle has arrived also and is quickly chewing the foliage of many trees, shrubs, and flowers. Look for a small silver-gray hard shell insect, less than a 1/2 inch long, usually found in groups on the foliage and flowers chewing away. Use Eight Garden Spray or Beetle Killer as soon as possible, as they are also mating at this time of the year. The rain has washed off all non-systemic products you have applied to your plants before the storm; systemic products like Tree and Shrub insecticide should be still active on your plants.

Check your 'Annabelle' hydrangea also, as a caterpillar type insect called a leaf roller is actively stitching several leaves together near the tip of the plant. Once the leaves are stitched together, the caterpillar will eat the flower buds of the plant--but all you have to do is pull the leaves apart to free the flower bud and kill the caterpillar. No spraying is needed and once you free the leaves, this insect is finished for the year.

Another insect you will begin to notice with all the rain is called the spittle bug; it is a hard-shelled beetle type of insect that lives in a cluster of bubbles that look like spit on the foliage of your plants. This insect is sucking energy from your plants and blowing bubbles with some of the liquid as a form of camouflage from predators. A good rose spray will control this insect in your flower garden and stop the damage.

If you have fruit trees or berry plants, be sure to reapply your fruit tree spray as they have been cleaned of their protection by the rain. Make sure your spray has a fungicide included to prevent leaf spot and black spot fungus or your leaves will become infected. Also if you have flowering crabapples trees be sure to treat the foliage with a good fungicide like Serenade or Garden Copper or they will be infected with this same problem that will spot the foliage and cause them to turn yellow and fall from the plant during July. This spraying is very important right now and should not be skipped!

On the positive side, this rain also did a lot of good for our gardens; when the sun does come back out, you will notice a lot of new growth on all your plants. This time of the year, our plants are very actively growing--and we are so busy planting we do not notice it. The extra moisture will help push additional new growth on your trees, shrubs and garden plants--and the summer-flowering shrubs will be benefited, with additional flower buds on them along with the new growth. The extra moisture will help establish your new plants faster in your gardens and your established trees and shrubs that have already flowered will have an easier time making flower buds for next year. Fertilizer applied to them right now will go a long way to increase next spring's flowers.

Look at your roses and perennials, as they will have grown very quickly with all the moisture, so expect extra flowers from them in the weeks to come. Your ground cover plants will also benefit from the extra moisture, as the underground runners have been stimulated and will produce extra new growth to thicken up the plants in the garden. Your spring flowering bulbs that have finished flowering like tulips and daffodils should be better next year, as they can now go dormant for the year with the extra moisture they so needed.

Yes, it was wet--and yes, it will mean extra work for us in the days to come but the extra rain was very beneficial to our garden at this time of the year. Now...if we could only schedule 2 to 3 inches of rain during July and August, we could have gardens and lawns like we have never had before. Always look on the BRIGHT side--the season is still young and we have a lot of enjoyment ahead of us this year!

Thanks Paul!

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
June 11, 2012

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