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Unless you just arrived here from another part of the world I don’t need to tell you how dreary our months of April and May have been. Cloudy, cool and rainy weather is not only depressing but it has a drastic affect on our gardening… both good and bad.
I prefer to focus on the positive so let’s start there. For the most part it has been a good year for the growth of lawns, trees, shrubs and perennial plants. The cool moist weather has allowed flowering plants to display their blossoms for much longer than usual, the grass is very green, growing all too quickly and existing perennials are lush, loving this English-type weather pattern.
While the cool, wet weather has given us a lush and green spring it will also provide more than its fair share of grief as well. Cutting the grass has been a headache, to say the least, but what may not be so obvious are the problems we may be facing in the weeks ahead. The tremendous rainfall will have diminished the effectiveness of crabgrass control. Many of you may not have had the chance to apply crabgrass control in time and those who did will be disappointed to know that the rain will, to one degree or another, have leached the herbicide from your lawn. If you have had crabgrass issues in the past a summer treatment of post emergent crabgrass killer may be necessary to prevent wide spread problems this season.
We should expect to see greater than average occurrences of lawn diseases this season as well. Once we get warmer temperatures a host of lawn diseases will be appearing due to our wet spring weather. Preventative fungicide treatments (and may be necessary) are an option but frequent mowing (and regular feeding) is the best option for non-chemical control. It is always best to remove less than 1/3 of the grass blades at any given mowing but with all the water this spring this has been nearly an impossible task. Be careful not to apply your lawn food too heavily… this can contribute to the likelihood of future disease problems.
Roses are plants that may show ill affects of our wet spring weather as well. Powdery mildew and black spot diseases will be more prevalent than average this season. Proper pruning of plants can help create airflow through plants, (which is helpful) but fungicide treatments may be necessary in some cases. Organic fungicide options such as sulphur can be effective but frequent applications are necessary to keep diseases from getting a start. Once the pathogens appear, stronger solutions will be necessary for adequate control.
There are some trees and shrubs that may also need more attention due to our wet weather. Apples (both fruiting and ornamental crabapples) are subject to apple scab disease during wet springs. This disease causes leaves to get spots and fall off early and can blemish fruit as well. Sulphur sprays are effective but require frequent applications while chemical controls provide greater disease suppression.
Anthracnose disease can affect maple, sycamore, oak and dogwoods. Symptoms include leaf scorch and premature leaf drop. Preventative fungicide treatments are helpful for new plantings but are difficult and/or impractical on larger specimens.
Powdery mildew appears as white fuzz on leaves of susceptible plants. Lilacs, ninebark, deciduous azaleas, dogwood, English oaks, horse chestnut, privet, roses, serviceberry and some viburnum are examples of plants that may be in trouble this year. Control is most effective when preventative treatments are made… once leaves are infected they cannot be saved. Although this disease is problematic, rarely does it have a long-term affect on plant health.
Annual flowers and vegetables are likely the big losers with this year’s weather. Cold wet soil has been difficult (if not impossible) to work in and get gardens planted. Many that did get into the ground may have suffered from colder than average soil temperatures. Pansy, petunia, and dianthus are examples of annual flowers that tolerate cool soils but impatiens, geraniums, begonias and marigolds do not cope as well. Broccoli, cabbage and lettuce have done marginally well but tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and basil need warmer soil to grow. Warm loving plants planted too early will languish, growing very slowly and will most often be surpassed in performance by plants installed at later dates.
Weather is like anything else… you need to focus on the good and cope with the bad. While we haven’t been blessed with ideal conditions this spring you needn’t look far to find those far worse off. Our prayers go to those in Alabama affected by the devastating tornadoes, those in Louisiana dealing with flooding and in Texas where wildfires and long-term drought persist.
So next time you find yourself about to complain about something as benign as weather take a moment to consider how fortunate you are that something as insignificant as rain may be your greatest problem of the day.
Now go outside and have fun in the mud!