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Spring is worth the work

 

Kathy
Henderson
Columnist

  This has been a very rainy spring. It does not matter that it has not rained this much since whenever; it just matters that it is raining consistently now.

  That is a good thing - it puts water in our streams and lakes and fills our water table.  It also gives us something to complain about other than taxes, the government and pollen. It gives us something on which to blame our gardening failures or our failure to plant our garden. Rainy days give us a reason to nap and naps are good. Rain also makes plants grow and roots expand. Most of all, frequent rains tell us how well our soil has been prepared for growth because it allows us to see if the water drains away and through the soil at a fairly rapid rate. If it stands for a while - several hours after the rain has stopped - it might be a good sign that the soil needs a little more preparation and an addition of organic matter or top soil. Drainage is one of the most important attributes of good growth. The roots must develop and they need oxygen to increase.

  Rain can cause more problems than just making the grass grow very fast in both the lawn and our planting beds. And let’s not even discuss the WEEDS. Rain and cloudy weather during the growing season encourage diseases; especially in crowded conditions.  Newly planted tomatoes and peppers may begin to show both yellow and spotted leaves. Apply a fungicide that is approved for vegetables as these symptoms begin to appear.

  Remember that a wilting plant (of any kind) tells you that something is happening to its roots. This can be due to too much water as well as too little water. It can also be due to extreme heat in the midday. If the plant is still wilted in the cool of the evening, then something is happening in the root zone. Check it out.

Iris in Kathy’s garden.  Special photo

  Rain often affects plants such as iris - especially those that are crowded from years of multiplying. If you notice a rotting rhizome (above-ground root), which turns the plant brown, the rhizome soft and foul smelling, you need to treat it immediately. Too much organic material or excess nitrogen, combined with poor drainage, contribute to this problem.  Remove the affected parts with a knife and rinse the remaining rhizome with 9 parts water to 1 part bleach solution. Rhizome rot rarely kills a plant outright if the correct action is taken immediately. By adding a coarse sand to your soil and lifting the soil in a slight hill when you plant, this problem will be minimized. Be very stingy with the organic matter and generous with limestone when you plant irises. Some of my best irises are growing in rocky soil.

  Rain also causes leaf spot on numerous plants. A good all- around fungicide for leaf spots is chlorothalonil. Always check on the label as to the use of all chemicals on edible plants. Be careful with the use of systemic fungicides - used too frequently, these have a detrimental effect. Frequent use can make the disease tolerant of the fungicide.

  Prune off infected stems, leaves and other parts of the plant. Light pruning of bushy plants helps to increase air flow around and through the plant.

  If the soil around your plants becomes compacted and needs more aeration, use a spading fork to punch holes around the roots and add a drainage material like coarse sand.  I do this to perennial borders that have been planted for several years and add a mixture of soil, sand, pelleted limestone and organic fertilizer - proportions dependent upon the types of plants.

  In July we will wonder why we complained about the cool, wet spring.

 

 

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