Every year is different and sometimes the weather lottery gives you the best of all worlds: sunshine and gentle rain. At other times, it can be blazingly hot and dry or at the opposite end of the spectrum, there could be “toad strangler” rains and never ending cloudiness. When it is your turn for cloudy, rainy weather, you might begin to see problems developing in your flower or vegetable garden. Sadly, there is not a lot you can do to change things once the rain has fallen but you can do some preparation and clean up to help get you through until the sun starts to shine again.
1. Check your garden and look for any damage from long bouts of rainy weather or storms. Any broken stems should be removed; sometimes you only need to remove a few damaged leaves.
2. Stake or support plants where needed. Long periods of wet weather usually increase growth on plants, and taking up too much water can weaken them. Also, the lack of sunlight makes the new growth floppier than usual, but only the return of the sun can fix that. So check and see if any of your garden plants need a bit of support.
3. Don’t walk on, compress or compact the soil. When your garden soil is very wet and you walk on it a lot or try to dig a hole, you actually can compact the soil and make it less likely to drain. This is less likely to be a problem in soils where you have added a lot of compost and more likely to be a problem if you have heavy clay soil.
4. Check for signs of erosion. Take a look around your landscape after a heavy rainfall. The excess water may be making inroads into your garden and washing the mulch or soil away. If you find places where the soil has washed away from the roots of plants, add some more to cover the roots, tamping it gently into place to keep exposed roots covered.
5. Fertilizer… seriously? Yes, heavy and increased rainfall will wash away nutrients and leave your plants starved for nutrients. You can use any fertilizer you’d like, but organic fertilizers tend to not wash out quite as quickly as liquid fertilizers. A few organic fertilizers you could try include Organic Proven Winners Flowering Plant Food, blood and bone meal, or fish emulsion. If you want an even slower continual release of fertilizer, try Proven Winners Premium Continuous Release Plant Food.
Don’t forget that garden hygiene is also a big factor in keeping diseases at bay in the garden when the weather turns cloudy and wet. Remove all dead leaves and branches. If you see any sign of disease, remove the infected plant parts and don’t put them in your compost pile--throw them out with the trash.
If cold, cloudy, rainy weather is normal for your region, start doing some homework to find out which vegetables and flowers perform best in your climate. Ask the experts at your local garden center or your local county cooperative extension service.
Prevention Tips for Next Year:
Add compost to your soil before planting. The addition of good compost will help most soils drain better and will provide a better home for your plants’ roots.
If you regularly have trouble in the ground with plants struggling in wet soil, it might be easier to simply grow your plants in containers. A container filled with potting soil drains better than most in-ground soils and also gets the plants up off the ground for improved air circulation. Sometimes a simple shift into containers can make all the difference.
Consider installing a raised bed, which has the same drainage and air circulation benefits as growing in containers but is also easier on the gardener’s knees and back. By growing your plants up higher, you’ll find yourself doing less stooping, bending, and sitting on the ground.
Contributor Bio: During his extensive horticultural career, Dr. Rick Schoellhorn has worked with plant breeders to bring new plants to market, was a professor of horticulture at University of Florida, worked the retail scene, and co-authored Your Florida Guide to Perennials. He now works regularly with growers and breeders on research, plant genetics, and production while exploring his musical talents in his spare time.
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