Rain, Rain, Rain – What to do in a monsoon?

So… it’s been quite a soggy June. Not quite record rainfall, but at least twice what we received last year, and it seems we’ll never see the sun again. It’s been a cool spring so far; I can’t remember the last time I was still wearing sweatshirts at the beginning of July. All the rain and the corresponding lack of sunshine and warmth can lead to some interesting situations in the garden. What to do when plants don’t have the one thing we cannot provide – bright, sunny, dry weather?

The weather has been a boon to cool-season crops like peas and lettuce, but with the wet comes all manner of other issues. Molds and fungi adore cool, most, still environments, exactly what a lettuce leaf or other low-growing foliage offers. Harvesting and using low growing veggies and herbs will keep their lowest leaves off the soil, and improve air movement, which will hopefully cut down on the mush factor.

On the upside, now is a perfect time to plant trees, shrubs, and perennials! The more water a plant receives in its first year of growth, the better off it will be. A thorough soaking at planting time followed by several days of nice cool weather and gentle rains will all but eliminate any transplant shock and give the roots plenty of opportunity to grow nice and deep once the weather does clear up. Deep roots are far better than shallow for holding capability, and the ability to survive dry spells (though any sort of dry spell seems all but a distant memory at this point…). Fertilizer is still important and should not be forgotten during the rain. Plants are still taking up moisture and nutrients, and heavy, constant rains will leech away the more soluble components, like nitrogen. When the rain finally slows, an application of slow-release fertilizer will provide a bit of a boost to those plants that need it. The extra moisture will assist with the release of nutrients.

Proper spacing and selective pruning of perennials, shrubs, and trees goes a long way to avoid disease problems in the wet. All plants should have good airspace between them and in their centers. Breezes blowing through open-branched shrubs and trees will greatly lessen the amount of insects that can find safe harbor, and spores of molds and fungi will have a more difficult time finding a suitable moist place to take hold. Cleaning up fallen flowers and leaves before they have a chance to decompose and add to the general mush of things is also a good landscape practice to get in the habit of doing. Your plants will thank you!

There’s not a lot that can be done about the excess ground moisture, unfortunately. This is where growing plants in raised beds is certainly a bonus. A properly constructed raised garden bed or raised berm will shed water and drain much better than in-ground gardens. Even a raise of only 3 or 4 inches will significantly improve drainage. Definitely something to consider when building more beds next year!

One thing we can all definitely look forward to – once the sun does finally decide to show its face after all this rain, our gardens are simply going to explode with growth and blooms! I think we will all shortly have more tomatoes, beans, and cucumbers than we know what to do with. Next year, too, look for incredibly happy small fruits and other shrubs. Traditionally, raspberries and blackberries flourish and will produce a bumper crop of berries in the season following a lot of rain. Many, many pies and jars of jam may be in our futures.