We are in the midst of a typical Mid-Atlantic summer: hazy, hot, humid, and wet. Not only is this type of weather pattern uncomfortable for us, it can be hazardous to the health and vigor of our plants.
Frequent or extended periods of warm, rainy weather not only wreak havoc on the root systems of our plants, but are also ideal for the spread of plant diseases. We may not be able to change Mother Nature, but here are a few tips that may help.
Plant Selection & Planting:
One way to combat summer conditions is to look for native plant selections that thrive in our growing conditions, or choose plants that are more resistant to fungal and bacterial infections. When planting, create raised beds or be sure to add plenty of peat moss to your soil (3:1 soil to peat) to improve your drainage. This improves the odds that your plants’ roots will not drown due to soil flooding. To help reduce the development and spread of disease, leave plenty of space in between your plants. Decreasing crowded, dark conditions and overlapping leaves lessens the chance a plant disease will develop and spread. When planting vine-type vegetables (melons, squash, cucumbers), look for ways to keep the maturing fruits from coming into contact with the soil.
Containers & Hanging Baskets:
Try to move your hanging baskets, plant containers, and window boxes under cover during extended periods of rain. While they crave moisture during hot periods, they can quickly decline if the soil is drenched for days on end.
One of the most common diseases during warm, rainy summers is powdery mildew. This fungus is easily seen on the leaves, shoots, flowers, and fruits of garden ornamentals. If left untreated, leaves will turn yellow, curl, die, and fall off the plant. Fruits and vegetables affected by powdery mildew will become rotten.
A host of other fungi and bacterial diseases are fostered by warm, wet conditions. Luckily, companies such as Ortho, Bayer, and Bonide offer broad-spectrum fungicides and garden disease control that address multiple problems.
With a little planning, preventative maintenance, and reactive care, your garden will withstand the challenges of our Mid-Atlantic summers.