I know most of you must be going as crazy as I am with this dreary, soggy weather. I’m also sure that most of you are worried about your plants drowning in all of this water. I hate to say “I told you so!”, but if you aren’t growing in raised beds, I’ll bet your plants are waterlogged! If your garden has looked like a swimming pool in the past week, I’d strongly consider making some raised beds for next year’s garden. You can put a raised bed over a moderately soggy area and have much more success than in the same area without the raised bed.
With that being said, there’s not much you can do to change things this year but you can do some things to make sure your plants pull through this.
Rule #1: Stay out of your garden when it’s muddy! If you try to plant in soggy soil, you’ll do more harm than good. The soil should have the consistency of chocolate cake…it should crumble nicely when you dig it with just enough moisture to hold it together. If you walk on muddy soil, dig in muddy soil, or (heaven forbid) till muddy soil, you will turn it into concrete clods once it dries out. Wait until it dries out a day or two before working in the soil.
If you can’t plant when the soil is dry, cover the soil with plastic of some sort (I use the SRM film). The pepper bed I planted last week was planted the day of a heavy rain. I tilled it a week or so before, then covered it with the SRM film. When I pulled the film off to plant, the soil was wonderfully dry fluffy which made planting very easy. If you aren’t using the SRM film, you can use any other plastic such as a tarp or Visqueen.
Rule #2: Keep the foliage off the ground! If you have leaves touching the ground, snip them off with some scissors. Foliage that touches the ground can transmit fungal and other diseases to the entire plant.
Rule #3: Use a fungicide! I know, I know, I know…we all want to be “organic”, but desperate times call for desperate measures. Straying from being totally “organic” could mean the difference between you having a table full of tomatoes this year, or a bunch of dead plants in June.
I use a product that’s highly recommended by tomato growers across the country called “Ortho® Garden Disease Control”. This was formerly known as Daconil. This is a preventative fungicide which means you have to treat your plants BEFORE they get fungal diseases. It won’t kill fungus that’s already on your plants. The only way to get rid of diseased leaves is to remove them.
You need to have a regimen of using this product. With the wet, cool conditions we’ve had and the inevitable warm and humid days to come, I recommend spraying this every 7-10 days until we get to a long dry spell this summer. You dilute it in water in a pump sprayer and spray the leaves and the surrounding area…it’s not too expensive and is really about as safe as any chemical gets. If you stop applying it and fungus takes over, all of your hard work and money can be wasted.
Ok…three rules is enough for now. I hope this helps some of you sleep better at night knowing that this weather isn’t the end of the world. If you aren’t in raised beds this year…start saving your pennies now and build one or tow beds next year…once they are built, you’ll never want to grow on flat ground again.
One last note…I’ll be sending out the E-vite for the Tomato Tasting by the end of the month. It’s August 7th at Roe Park. This year’s event is looking to be WAY bigger than last year so I’ll need some help getting it set up. We’ll need some folding tables to put tomatoes on and everyone will need to bring lawn chairs to sit on so we’re not trying to use the benches for seating and serving. Stay tuned…we will be eating tomatoes soon!