Published on 06/03/10

Dealing with wet gardens and landscapes

By Bob Westerfield

Most gardeners view rainfall as a good thing. But too much of a good thing, namely rain, can be bad.

Disease is always an issue when there is abundant moisture and plants don’t have time to dry out. Many ornamentals, particularly annuals and tender perennials, suffer in the form of leaf spots and root rot. If annuals are not planted on raised beds, too much rainfall can cause them to die.

Pale, yellow coloring is a result of wet roots and leached nitrogen from the soil. Light applications of fertilizer will sometimes help perk up annuals, provided the rainfall levels off.

Leaf spots and other fungal diseases can be controlled through sanitation and occasional use of fungicides. Picking off infected leaves and removing heavily diseased plants will help to curtail the problem.

Some plants and vegetables have been affected by strong winds in combination with the wet soils. This has caused many plants to lean over. As long as the root system has not detached, the plants can be gently stood back up by hand. Then, lightly step on the opposite side of the plant root ball.

In some cases, it may be necessary to use a temporary staking system and guy wires to encourage a plant to grow back in the right direction. If you use wires, protect the plant with some form of a rubber collar such as an old water hose.

Small plants may be stood back up with the help of a single stake or even tomato cages. Corn that has blown over will often stand itself up in a few days and still produce decent ears.

Vegetable gardens also need attention. Weeds seem to love the wet conditions and most likely are thriving. Control weeds through light tilling and hand pulling. Weeds pull nutrients from the soil and will stunt vegetable plants if left unchecked.

As the summer progresses, keep an eye on your tomatoes. If the rains continue, tomato plants will be especially vulnerable.

Prune off diseased foliage to encourage new growth. Many tomatoes will exhibit growth cracks near the top of the fruit as a result of too much rain.

While they may not look pretty, these tomatoes are still perfectly fine to eat. Varieties that put out one or two big harvests should be removed after production to avoid buildup of diseases or insects.

It seems as though it is difficult to have a summer that has the right amount of rainfall. We either get too little or too much all at once. By paying close attention to landscapes and gardens during times of stressful conditions, you can help your plants survive.

Bob Westerfield is a University of Georgia Cooperative Extension consumer horticulturist with the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.