Soggy, cloudy weather dampening summer garden hopes

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 12, 2013

SALISBURY — Rainfall has certainly been a topic of conversation over the past few weeks. Rowan County had 7 inches in the last two weeks of June. Early July already posted 2.4 inches of what seems to be daily rains. Above-average rainfall will most certainly produce above-average problems with our landscapes and gardens. Below are only a few problems with possible solutions.
Increased plant diseases: Fungal diseases flourish in warm, damp weather. Early blight on tomatoes, mildews on squash and brown patch on fescue is rampant. Fungicides will slow down many diseases but not completely control them. Fungicides are often impractical for small vegetable plantings. Pick off the infected leaves if possible. Remove plants immediately that have no hope of recovery. Consider a late summer planting or fall vegetable crop. Well established fescue will recover from brown patch in the early fall.
Bedding plants are stunted: Some bedding plants cannot tolerate excessive rainfall and become stunted. Plants look sick but not really dying; however, they just won’t grow. Consider removing sick plants and replant. Most bedding plants will never recover after becoming stunted.
Vegetables taste bland: Cucumbers and cantaloupes have off flavor. Excessive water leaches out sugars and flavors while sunlight produces these. If possible, wait until plants get a few days of sunlight before harvesting fruits.
Low fertility: Excessive rains have leached primary nutrients from the soil, planters and raised beds, especially nitrogen and potassium. Plants will stop growing and fruit will not grow. Add fertilizer to bedding plants and vegetables for the remainder of the summer.
Fruit has fallen off trees: Stressed plants, especially fruit trees, will drop fruit. It’s a survival mechanism. Excess moisture can cause fruit drop. Thin trees early, at least 4 inches between each fruit, to reduce stress and lesson weight on limbs and branches.
Excessive plant growth: Ample rainfall and favorable temperatures encourage plant growth, particularly on trees and shrubs. Plants such as hydrangea, maples, hollies and other materials can be judiciously pruned back to keep them in shape and maintain uniform growth. Avoid heavy pruning at this point.
Plants aren’t blooming: Excessive rainfall often increases vegetative growth, reducing the flowering process. Once excessive growth slows down, blooms should return.
Weeds: Excessive weed growth in flower beds and gardens accelerates in wet weather. Weed control with pre-emergence herbicides is possible. Grassy weeds in broad-leafed plantings of flowers and vegetables can be controlled with some over-the-top herbicides but they can be pricey. Nutsedge can also be controlled in lawns and ornamental plantings. Read the labels first before application; the requirements for effective weed control can be tricky.
Rodents: Mice can be a problem. Field mice and rats don’t like excessive rainfall, either. Mice and rats will seek shelter indoors in basements, garages, etc. Be prepared to control these intruders with snap traps, sticky traps and baits. Read and the understand labels before applying rodenticides.

Darrell Blackwelder is the County Extension director with horticulture responsibilities with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service in Rowan County. Learn more about Cooperative Extension events and activities by calling 704-216-8970, Facebook or online at