the dirt

Managing Your Gardens in Wet Weather

What a difference a year makes. Last summer our plants drooped in the drought; this summer they are drowning in the rain. Unlike last spring when we were sweltering in 100º weather, this spring we hardly ever took off our raincoats and long pants. Remember Memorial Day weekend? It was in the 50s and 60s. Now that we near the end of June, we continue to experience unusually wet weather with rainfall measuring four to five inches above average in the Baltimore Washington area. While temperatures have gone from cool to mild, we are just beginning to experience the typical hot days that mark the beginning of summer.

Adapting to this wet weather can be tricky for you and your outdoor environment. Here are some tips for helping you and your gardens thrive in what portends to be a cool, wet growing season.

Leggy plants. Long legs are nice on women but not so for plants, which are much taller this year with the increased rain amounts. Serious pruning is required to let in more light and increased air flow. A good rule to follow: thin by one-third and reduce height by one-third. Prune shrubs away from houses to deter wood rot. You want good air flow and increased light for proper ventilation. Remember wet+dark = moldy+rotten

Bloom confusion. This spring, bloom time for flowers was three weeks behind because of the cool temperatures, now they are running ahead of schedule due to the heavy rainfall. In mid-June, I saw Mimosa trees, Crape Myrtle, Shasta daisies, and other typical mid-July flowering species show their colors.

Fungus among us. Phytophthora root rot is the same fungus that caused the great potato famine in Ireland. It’s a common pathogen that usually lies dormant in our soils but becomes active with unusually cool (May) and wet (June) weather attacking the root structures of tomatoes, eggplant, potatoes, fruit and nut trees, Chestnut Oaks, rhododendrons, laurels. Another thing to consider: when tall trees have a compromised root structure, they can be easily uprooted when storms hit and winds pick up,  a recipe for disaster.

Apple Cedar Rust on JuniperOther fungus problems – I have noticed Apple Cedar Rust (see photo to right) on the species of crabapple, spruce and the native serviceberry. Fire blight, powdery mildew, black spot on roses and anthracnose on the dogwoods are other problems due to the wet weather.

Poison Ivy, Mosquitos, Ticks – Oh my!! Last October’s record rainfall has created plenty of moisture for the invasive poison ivy to grow EVERYWHERE. The heavy downpours leached many pre-emergents out of the soil profile and have helped grow a bumper crop of weeds in 2013. Two perennial vine weeds doing especially well this spring are Oriental bittersweet and poison ivy. Saturated soil and standing water create a perfect haven for mosquitoes to breed, making the outdoors unpleasant. Ticks thrive in the cool weather because they can’t sweat, they will explode and die off in sunny areas once the hot weather arrives but continue to lurk at the woods edge and in the shade.

Watchful eye. Be aware and monitor your investment by walking the property and inspecting your shrubs, trees and irrigation.

• In hot, dry weather, your irrigation system is a godsend, but in cool, wet weather, it can be part of the problem. Don’t make the mistake of treating your irrigation system as a non-maintenance system and don’t rely on the rain sensor (which is atmospheric and doesn’t measure soil moisture). Again, wet soil = root rot = Phytophthora root rot. If can you learn to manually control your irrigation system, your landscape environment and bank account will be much better off. I organize the following months and adjust the irrigation accordingly:

Low to off  — March, April, May

Normal to High — June, July, August

Low to off  — September, October, November

• Hire a licensed pesticide applicator to properly apply chemicals if necessary and a certified arborist to inspect your trees for potential issues. Selectively remove unwanted trees that compromise larger mature trees. I partner with Bartlett Tree Experts and communicate on a regular basis.

• Hire a professional landscape company, like Architectural Gardens, for landscape maintenance and management. It’s always a good idea to have another set of eyes look at your property.

About Missy Jones

Missy Jones, owner of Architectural Gardens, is a Master Watershed Steward in Anne Arundel County. Since growing up on the Severn River watershed, her passion is to help save the bay and educate homeowners about conservation landscaping, thus reducing the negative impact of stormwater runoff. Landscaping is in her blood: Missy’s father owned a landscaping company in the Annapolis area and she’s been gardening ever since she learned to walk. Call Missy for a consult, 800.280.2103, and let’s get started.
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One Response to Managing Your Gardens in Wet Weather

  1. anne parker says:

    Terrific newsletter! My huge hydrangeas on East side of house have NOT bloomed. Usually covered with huge blue blooms. Instead I see one PINK. Rest of the bushes doing fine.Bought bloom booster and in fine print says it’s only for new plants. sigh. Thanks for the info.

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