Gardening: Adjust your gardening when dealing with wet weather

Wet and cold weather has resulted in plants being slightly behind where they are on an average year. Most plants are slower to bloom and mature this year. Give the plants a few warm days and they will grow very quickly as moisture will be readily available.

Excess moisture, to the point of it sitting in the fields and saturating pots, will harm plants that like to keep their roots dry. Ideally soil’s macropores should contain 60% moisture and 40% air. When the soil is saturated there is not enough air in the soil for plants roots to intake moisture as a result plants wilts from lack of moisture when surrounded by water.

If possible move pots inside or in a sheltered location where they receive less moisture. Digging a ditch from standing water to lower ground will help the ground to dry quicker.

Weeds are easy to pull when the soil is wet but walking on the soil is not a good idea as weight on wet soil will cause it to compact, removing spaces between the soil particles where air and moisture are found. Soil that is compacted becomes hard and lumpy making it hard for roots and water to penetrate.

If one must weed, stand at the edge of a bed and reach into the interior.

An alternative to weeding would be to edge sidewalks and flower and shrub beds. The shovel or edger easily penetrates the soil making it easy to remove soil and leave a sharp edge.

Wet muggy weather can result in Powdery Mildew, a thin white layer of fungus which forms on the top of leaves. If looked at under a microscope, one would discover that there are a number of different fungi that are part of the broad label Powdery Mildew. Most of the fungi are host specific meaning that the variety of powdery mildew will form on only certain plants. This explains why the mildew will be on cucumbers but the nearby peppers and tomatoes.

Wet humid conditions are needed for the fungi spores to germinate. Taking a few precautions can eliminate the problem. Water at ground level as opposed to overhead watering, to decrease the humidity.

Prune leaves and branches to allow air to circulate around the plants to avoid the buildup of moisture.

Remove all parts of the plants that have powdery mildew as soon as the fungi appears. Place infected plant material in the garbage not the compost. Clean up infected areas again in the fall removing all leaves and stems that might be harbouring spores as they can overwinter and appear again in the spring.

If Powdery Mildew has been a problem in the past, change the variety of plant that is planted in that location or purchase plants that are resistant to the fungus.

New leaves are susceptible to powdery mildew. Less nitrogen fertilizer will slow down the new growth and can slow the spread of mildew.

There are a few chemicals on the market recommended for treating different fungus. Do research to see how effective they are before purchasing them. Do not use pesticides on plant material that they are not licenced for.

There are a number of home remedies to get rid of Powdery Mildew circulating on the internet. As with anything on the internet, consider the source. Is it from a known horticultural institute? If used, will it harm the plants? Will trying the remedy give the fungi more time to spread? When the recipe calls for spraying leaves, do so in the early morning or later in the afternoon. Often leaves that are sprayed when they are in direct hot sunlight will burn.

The ground is wet, the air is humid so adjust the garden work accordingly.

Linda Tomlinson is a horticulturalist that lives near Rocky Mountain House. She can be reached at your_garden@hotmail.com

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