Here in central Virginia, we seem to have two seasons: drought and downpour. We're in the downpour season now, caught in a weather pattern that's dumping plenty of water onto your fields, farms and gardens. It's welcome, but it can also wreak havoc with your vegetables, fruit, and garden flowers.
The following five tips can help you keep your garden beautiful after this deluge is finished.
- Check for powdery mildew, black spot, and other fungal and bacterial diseases: Fungi, bacteria and mold loves moisture. The damp, cool, cloudy days are perfect breeding conditions for these common garden ailments. The Virginia Cooperative Extension website has a good article on recognizing powdery mildew, a common problem in local gardens. I've noticed that my own plants all seem to be suffering to some extent from this problem right now and it's like to get worse before the rains end and the sun can dry off the leaves again. Recognizing it and treating it immediately after the rains stop may help your plants look and feel better before winter.
- Check drainage: Make sure your planters, containers, and window boxes are draining! Plants can and do drown if there's too much water in their containers. Lift out plastic pots from decorative pots to allow them to drain. You can even more small pots, house plants and other portable containers under shelter if you're worried they're getting too much rain.
- Harvest vegetables: Pick as many tomatoes and other vegetables as you can: Tomatoes will crack from too much rainwater, and other vegetables can rot. Pick as many as you can and can, freeze or otherwise store or use them.
- Weed as soon as you're able: Weeds love this weather just as much as many plants do. Weed seeds in the soil may have been waiting weeks for the rains to come. Pull them up before they take over...but remember not to walk on wet soil. It can compact and damage it.
- Watch for wasps: The wasps and yellow jackets are fierce in the fall. They're bad-tempered to begin with, but even more so when their tunnels and hives flood. I dodged a few today in my fruit tree orchard as I walked my dog. Their in-ground nests must be flooding. Avoid them as much as you can at this time of year...and give thanks for the first cold snap, which will take care of the pesky, stinging workers.
Rain is a wonderful thing, a gift for gardeners, and I am always thankful when I hear the beautiful song it sings as it courses through the gutters on my house. I know that it heralds good growth to come and a beautiful garden. But too much rain can make plants sick just as too much candy can give you a stomach ache. Too much of any good thing is...well, too much.
Here's to rain...and sunny skies ahead!