Coping with unsettled weather

Gardening can always be a challenge as one is trying to provide the perfect environment for plants. In hot areas, keeping the soil moist is a struggle. Cool and damp weather creates its own set of problems that are becoming apparent in Central Alberta gardens.

Gardening can always be a challenge as one is trying to provide the perfect environment for plants.

In hot areas, keeping the soil moist is a struggle. Cool and damp weather creates its own set of problems that are becoming apparent in Central Alberta gardens.

Other considerations are not dependent on the weather, just plant preferences.

Heat-loving plants are struggling with excess moisture and lack of heat. As a result, their bottom leaves are turning yellow. Small plants can be covered with hot caps, plastic covers that will trap daytime heat and repel direct moisture.

Larger plants or large areas can be covered with a sheet of polyspun cloth, which will keep the air under the cloth a couple of degrees warmer than the outside air.

Be sure to anchor the cloth securely or it will disappear in the wind.

Soil that is covered with woodchips will be wetter and cooler than bare soil.

When the weather is hot, this is a positive; in wet years, it can be a problem.

When it becomes one, rake the chips away from the plants to allow the soil close to the stems and over the roots to dry.

Plants that are under cover of plastic or glass also respond to weather conditions.

Keep the soil moist but avoid soaking it.

Wet soil is usually cold. If possible, water early in the day and try to avoid wetting the foliage.

Mildew, a white powder, forms in moist conditions. Once it is on plant leaves, it is hard to eradicate.

Mildew slows down plant growth by hindering the production of flowers and food.

Once the sun appears and the days become warmer, expect all plants to grow quickly.

At this time of year, irises should be in full bloom. If not, take a look at the plant’s roots. Are they too crowded?

Are they planted too deep? If the roots are crowded, dig up the plant and split it into smaller pieces.

Plants can be dug in spring when the plant is starting to grow or August when the top growth begins to die back.

Use a sharp knife to cut the roots apart. Each new plant will need a stem and small piece of rooted rhizome.

Irises with rhizome roots like their own space.

Fewer blooms will appear if the plant is shaded by larger plants.

These irises do best if the roots are on top or close to the soil surface.

The enlarged rhizomes grow along the surface or directly under the surface. If planted deeper, the plants will not bloom and the roots may rot.

Early-blooming peonies are starting to bloom.

Other varieties are forming buds and will open the first part of July.

Peonies will not bloom if they are planted too deep.

The eye of the tuber should be within an inch (two cm) of the soil surface.

The problem can be rectified in two ways, depending on how deep the roots are buried.

If the roots are just about at the correct level, remove soil from around the plant until the eyes are close enough to the surface for the plant to bloom.

A root that is too deep for this method needs to be dug up in the early spring or fall and replanted in a shallower hole. Once planted at the proper depth, the plant will bloom for years.

Understanding how plants react to their environment makes it easier to provide the correct conditions and develop a better garden.

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