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Mansfield Magazine

After the Flood…

Jun 05, 2015 02:05PM ● By Mary Phillips

After record breaking rainfall during the month of May, can you believe that it's time to get outside and tend to your landscape already?

"What?"  "The sun just came out on Monday!"  you say.

Alas, 'tis true Mansfield gardeners, your plants may need you now more than ever! I'm not talking about the obvious chores here - mowing lawns that look like pastures and pulling all the weeds that took hold while we all hid indoors from the deluge  – instead of 'big picture' maintenance, this is when we will want to take a close look at our plants as individuals to see how they weathered the storms.

While it seems that the heavy, constant watering Mother Nature gifted us with would leave plants ready to face a long, dry spells with very little attention – the opposite is actually the case.  Extreme rain events create a cascade of plant woes – and if left unattended they can severely stress or kill your landscape as summer burns on.

Situation 1 – Root troubles:

Roots simply may have not needed to grow very much in such a wet environment – they could afford to 'be lazy' and not 'dig very deep' on their quests for water – since it was pretty much all around them for 30 days.  Now that the sun is back and the stems, shoots and leaves are back in action – and they are asking the roots for MORE WATER… but the roots are caught unprepared.  Wean your garden from the heavy water levels it has become accustomed to slowly, allowing plants time to grow healthy, deep roots before the hottest summer temperatures arrive. 

Some root systems may have even experienced root rot: diseases caused by fungi or (less often) bacteria that damage and decay root tissues.  When it is time to move water and nutrients up into the plant – the sick roots simply cannot do the job.  They must first be treated with a fungicide (you can choose organic/natural or chemical applications for this process).  Wean overwatered plants from their previous 'spoiled' condition slowly so they have time to adjust to the new sunny and hot environment. 

 Above: leaves showing signs of too much water - probably due to root rot

A good way to help a struggling root system is to do some light pruning.  Cut back a few branches on trees, give shrubs a good haircut to thin them out and allow air flow through them, and prune any vines so they can get a fresh start for summer. 

Situation 2 – Foliar infections

Wet leaves and cool, dark days set the stage for fungal and bacterial infections on your plants.  Look for soft, brown leaf edges, black spots on leaves, gray or white mold on leaf surfaces and even die-back of whole branch/shoot tips.  Most of the time, these infections are caused by fungal diseases and can be controlled with the application of a fungicide (there are many organic options available)and then prevented from reoccurring by applying pro-biotic sprays.  

 Above - black spot on rose leaves

If you have a tree that is a member of the rose family – a Bradford pear or an apple tree for example – and you see branch tips turning brown and curling at the ends, you have bacterial fireblight – which can only be treated by pruning infected tissues out. 

 Above: the tell tale browning, drooping and hooked tip of a tree with fireblight

To help alleviate and prevent the spread of foliar diseases, apply a fungicidal spray to your plants, thin them through pruning to help with air flow, and rake up/remove diseased leaves and stems then either burn them or throw them away. 

Lawns may show signs of infection with brown or dead areas appearing seemingly out of nowhere.  Thatch up the area affected and apply a fungicide treatment. 

Situation 3 – Nutrient leaching

Too much water can cause essential plant nutrients to leach from you soil.  Plants may need a boost of copost and fertilizer right now, and a thick layer of mulch for future moisture retention and root protection. 

Situation 4 – Insect outbreak

Warm, damp conditions are just what the bugs ordered! We've all noticed higher than normal levels of mosquitoes and flies this past week, but remember that insects which irritate your garden are just as happy with our current climate.  Be sure to empty any standing water on your property, thin out weeds and ground-covers, and carefully monitor your plants for infestations.

Now that we can look forward to sunny days and a return of normal rain-fall levels, be sure your garden gets a healthy start to summer! 

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