Rain and Rain and Rain Again, 5 Tips for Dealing With Constant Damp
In Maine, the chilly rain is now bidding fair to be every day for the entire month of June, and it’s not much better in the Hudson Valley. Or not much less rainy, anyway. It IS better there in general because it was warmer longer sooner, giving plants a good head start – and the rain itself is warmer.
I keep telling myself this too shall pass – There’s photographic proof from last July, when Lois was painting in the garden.
But it’s difficult for me to listen to me, so I’m glad there are a few things I can do to help avoid total catastrophe.
THINGS TO DO WHEN THE GARDEN HAS BEEN SOPPING WET FOR FAR TOO LONG
1. Do everything you can to increase air circulation and keep rot from spreading:
* Thin row crops so leaves don’t touch. Weed between rows, even if the weeds are far from the plants, so damp air isn’t trapped..
* In window boxes, where crowding is part of the appeal, keep checking the bases of the plants for dead and dying leaves. Remove them promptly, along with any fallen petals or other decaying material. Consider a bit of discrete low branch pruning; it’s often possible to open things up a bit at soil level without disturbing the lush look.
* Stake up thick foliage that’s flopped over on neighboring plants. Daylilies are the worst offenders.
2. Cut heavy flowerheads that could break branches when sodden with rain. Spent lilacs, late peonies, early dahlias…
3. Be aggressive against the mollusks. Slugs and snails eat day and night when it’s gloomy and wet. Consider multiple armaments, nothing organic works 100 percent unless you count chickens.
*Iron-phosphate ( Slugo, Escar-go) is a relatively safe snail poison, but it’s not quick acting and must be ingested to be effective.
* Diatomaceous earth will stop them even before they eat, but it loses effectiveness when sopping wet and is easily washed into the earth by rain. Daily reapplication isn’t difficult but even that may not be enough if it’s pouring a lot of the time. And d.e. is not inexpensive if you start using it by the pound.
* Beer and other traps. Traps can work well when slug pressure is faint. But in extreme conditions like these the baits are rapidly diluted and holding chambers can fill faster than you can keep them emptied.
* Death spray. Mix 1 part household ammonia with one part water in a spray bottle. Keep it by the door with your boots. Take it along every time you go out and spray every mollusk you see. It’s a contact poison, so be sure to aim for the foot when you’re targeting snails. Ammonia is a fertilizer and will not harm plants at this dilution, but it has almost no residual activity. If you’re not shooting, they’re not dying. Two parts water to one of ammonia works fine when plants aren’t wet.
4. On one of the occasions when it’s just gray and humid and it looks like there may be a few rainless hours, spray annual plants with liquid seaweed and fish emulsion, either in a blended product or separately. Leaves that are deprived of sunlight can’t manufacture much nourishment. And overwatering from the heavens is just like any other overwatering: if it doesn’t rot roots right away it can lead to fast growth at the expense of strength.
5. The rule about not walking on or planting in wet soil still applies. But if you have super-leggy seedlings and can’t pot them up or (like me) can’t face doing it, planting will have to happen. Continue to resist the walking at all costs – go to Argentina if necessary.