In many years, gardens and landscapes in the Piedmont have looked weary, worn-out and often dried up by this time in summer. That was, of course, thanks to blistering heat and weeks of dry weather that had seemed to become the norm rather than the exception.
But this summer is different. It is lush. That means we can focus our mid-summer evaluation not on replacing what is dead or dying from being in the blast furnace we often call summer. While trees and shrubs have grown noticeably well, some flowers and vegetables have suffered from near-constant rain that did not allow time for drying off. This made the plants susceptible to diseases such as root rot and leaf fungus. These problems are quite obvious. And because it is just mid-July, replacements are in order while there is still plenty of time for growth and production of flowers and vegetables.
One path to successful flower beds and vegetable gardens this summer certainly was with raised beds. More and more gardeners are seeing the value of taking this extra step in fashioning their beds. A raised bed with good, loose soil, 4 inches or more above the surrounding ground, has many benefits. But the chief one is that water tends to drain through rather than collect around or swamp the plants in deluges such as we have seen this summer.
Where soil holds excess water around roots, rot tends to set in and kill the plants. Where you see spots on leaves of flowers and vegetables, it is typically due to various kinds of fungus.
The usual guard against these various leaf diseases is to water plants very early in the day or to use a soaker hose that puts water directly into the root zone without wetting the leaves. Those principles are no help at all in a summer like this when it is raining every 15 minutes at all times of day or night – or simply just raining all the time. The poor foliage had little chance to dry off.
Where rot and disease have taken hold, I encourage you to start with fresh plants, especially the valued hot-weather crops such as tomatoes and peppers or good herbs such as basil. Plenty remain in stores and should adapt and grow well once planted.
If you are clearing out diseased crops, get rid of them entirely, rather than leaving them on the bed.
It is always good to set out some fresh plants at this time of year, in anticipation of autumn crops that are wonderful. And try to avoid replanting tomatoes in the same spots as the ones you just took out. That’s extra insurance against any disease in the ground.
Flowers, too, can be replaced easily enough where others have flagged and failed due to the wet weather. Annuals I’m seeing in garden centers are quite large by now and will fill in very well. In some cases, they will look like you planted them in May.
But of course, newly planted flowers and vegetables require water to settle in and begin growing.
You may have to go searching for your garden hose and find the faucet that you can scarcely remember using.
That is, if it doesn’t rain soon as you get the plants in the ground.
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