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Don’t let excessive rain ruin your garden

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By Cheryl Steenerson

Whoever thought white floors were a good idea?
People with maids, maybe. One thing is for sure, spring weather in Kentucky is never boring. You know, if we were smart, we’d dig holes to store all this water for later use this summer, but it’s too wet to dig.
Lawns look like hay fields, ready to bale and rubber boots are everywhere.
I am thankful for all this wind, though (except when it’s on steroids) because it’s helping to dry everything out. Lingering moisture brings fungus and disease to plants, so we better get our arsenal packed and ready to go.
Roses may already be showing signs of black spot. Dark brown to black leaf spots develop on upper leaves that eventually yellow and drop. The leaves get fringed edges and the canes develop raised reddish spots. Increase the airflow by pruning out some canes.
You should also apply Neem or make your own solution of 2 tablespoons of baking soda in 1 gallon of water. Add a couple drops of plain liquid soap to help it stick to the leaves. Heavily spray the entire bush in the early morning, once a week and after rains. The baking soda changes the plant’s pH balance making it difficult for the fungus to live.
Foliage diseases love this kind of weather. Most of them are fungus and the spores on one plant can be carried by the wind or water to several more, making it difficult to control. I recommend a Garden Fungicide made by Safer. It controls powdery mildew, black spot and rust.
There are a lot of plants that love this weather. Ferns, astilbe and cannas love it. Even peonies and Siberian iris love it. Bearded iris can’t stand it. Anything that doesn’t like to keep their feet wet is suffering now. That’s why good drainage of soil is very important.
This is the time to watch for water that stands too long in the garden and vow to amend that soil with compost, ASAP. I’m building a mini raised bed around my cuc and bean trellises. Then, I’m adding a foot of good soil. Floods and standing water will not beat me.
With a roll of plastic sheeting and a few skinny PVC pipes bent over, you can make your own little row tent. Lay the sheeting over the hoops and clip it somehow, if you need to protect you little plant babies from downpours.
Rocks and hand dug little diversion trenches can help stop the water flows that take your plants out. And if you’ve never really seen the need for mulch in the garden, I bet you will now. Mulch keeps the rain from splashing soil up onto your plants (and the mud off your boots). That soil brings with it all kinds of spores that bring on disease. The mulch also keeps the weeds down so they don’t compete with your crops and add to your workload.
These heavy rains have a tendency to wash all the nutrients out of the soil, so we should be breaking out the fertilizer earlier than normal. Fertilizer helps the plants keep their strength up to fight off diseases. Remember, slow release fertilizer is not only good for the plant, it’s easier on your work load because you don’t have to do it weekly.
Now, great weather is on its way. Get out there and catch up. I’m putting my tomatoes out as soon as I can work the soil and then I’m getting started on a water feature. Might as well use what Mother Nature brings us.
Happy growing.

Cheryl Steenerson is a gardening columnist for The Anderson News.