“Rain, rain, go away, come again some other day.” We used to sing that song as kids. After starting the spring and summer with some of the driest weather we have had for some time, we are now inundated with rain. The only advantage to this is that seed starting was easier, but only because the soil was heated up a lot by the time this rain hit. Otherwise, all the seed would have rotted. Unfortunately, we seem to be getting more rain than we bargained for…

7-15 Rudbeckia falling over ML

This perennial Rudbeckia patch is flopping over due to recent heavy rains. Photo by mrl2021.

A good soil will hold moisture and therefore help the plants survive between rain spells. In our garden, we water long before the plants would suffer. When it rains as much as it has, the soil can become waterlogged, leaving no space for air. This is a horrible condition for our plants to grow in. Unfortunately, there is not much we can do about it now. Raised beds help excess water drain away from our plants, but those would have had to be installed before planting in the spring. There really is no way to cover the plants to prevent the rain from hitting them as the water table is so high it would not matter (not to mention the plastic and humidity would make matters worse).

Mold, mildew, and fungus thrive in this kind of environment. Don’t be surprised if your cucumbers, squash, and phlox become covered in it this year. There are sprays that help, but I generally do not do anything and hope for more sunlight. Soil borne diseases that affect the roots will be greater in number this year as well. Hopefully we dry out soon before this becomes a bigger problem. Pollinators are limited when the rain comes, and because of this we should expect lower pollination rates for our vegetables for the time being. 

Your plants may appear to have the lower leaves yellowing. This is normal when they are given too much water. Once again there is no way to stop the rain so just hang in there. Yellowing can also be a symptom of nutritional deficiency (particularly nitrogen). Rain continually washing through the soil many times can wash away nutrients. This is called leaching. You would be wise to put some fertilizer down to replace what was lost, but try and not put it down before a big rain storm. Organic fertilizers tend to work better in this case as they are less prone to leaching. 

7-15 Yellowing Zuchinni plant ML

Yellowing of lower leaves of this zucchini plant caused by too much water. Photo by mrl2021.

Another thing to watch out for that you can do something about, are the weeds! The moisture and warm soil will help them germinate as well. Weeds may outgrow our plants in certain conditions. Get out there while the weeds are still small with a stirrup hoe or any hoe you prefer and get them before they get too big. When they are small, the hoe can cut or disturb weeds in a way that kills them. In many cases, if left unchecked, the weeds will grow taller than our plants and shade them out. A few weeks from now our prized plants may be totally outcompeted! Manually remove any weeds too big to hoe up. The wet ground usually makes weeds easier to pull so at least there is some good that comes from all this precipitation.

7-15 Weedy peppers ML

The pepper patch is in need of the hoe. Photo by mrl2021.

7-15 Raspberry and tall grass ML

This spring-planted raspberry patch is being overtaken by grass – time to weed before it gets shaded out completely. Photo by mrl2021.

Over saturated ground may also cause trees to uproot – especially pine trees. Be very careful if you see trees that seem to be leaning over. Hard, frequent rain can also cause washing out of the yard where the grass may not have been that thick.

7-15 Washing out in thin grass ML

This area of the yard was due for reseeding but now has washed out. Photo by mrl2021.

Tall annual and perennial plants may also get pushed over by the heavy rains. You may be able to tie them up with some string, as they probably will not stand up on their own again this year. If perennial, they will come back next year and have a normal, upright growth pattern so no worries there.

7-15 Cosmos spilling into the lawn ML

The Cosmos are spilling over into the lawn. They will need to be tied up before mowing. Photo by mrl2021.

7-15 Crocosmia flopping over ML

The Crocosmia is flopping over this year. I could tie this up after the rains end. Photo by mrl2021.

Hopefully this blog helped you understand what is going on around you. With the exception of weeding, there is not much we can do about it other than pray it stops raining so much! This will all end sooner or later and will be a distant memory. I guess we should be happy we did not have to lug around the garden hose. Be ready to fertilize when the rain ends and tie up some of your prized plants. This is all part of what we have to deal with when gardening. In many respects, although outside of the norm, it is nothing new. Maybe one day soon the lawn will be dry enough to mow!

Matt Lisy

True, it had been a bit on the dry side but the cold and rainy weather can stop now so we can get back out into the gardens. I suspect many New England gardeners
are a bit behind in our garden chores. We in the Northeast, however, have much to be thankful for in terms of weather considering all those whose homes,
businesses and croplands are being submerged by the Mississippi River right now.

Also, Midwest wheat, corn and soybean farmers have had to delay planting many of their fields due to soggy conditions. I just heard on the news this morning
that in at least one area less than 50 percent of the fields were planted when typically more than 90 percent are by now. This is bad news for the farmers and
bad news for us in terms of food prices.

The unpredictability of the weather just strengthens the argument for broad support of local farms. The local food and community supported agriculture movement has
been growing and I encourage all to support it. Of course, many are bringing this message even closer to home by growing their own vegetables and fruits
either in the backyard or in community gardens.

Back to the problem of soggy ground. Experienced gardeners know not to work the soil when it is too wet because it will quickly become compacted and that makes for
difficult plant growing conditions. If every step you take leaves an impression that glistens with water (or if you have creatures, like this wood frog milling about the wet garden) – stop! Better to catch up on indoor chores.

Wood frog

That being said, there’s only so long one can wait to plant the rest of the lettuce and beet seeds, the potatoes, and the broccoli and cabbage transplants. In some
instances, planting can be done but conscientiously, and with considerations of soil conditions. If a handful of soil isn’t dripping when squeezed, transplants
can be gingerly set out taking care not to compact the soil around them. You could try sowing some seeds in a previously prepared seedbed covering them with
some crumbled, soil and not packing it down. If these areas seem to be compacted when they dry out, go over the soil lightly with a hand cultivator or
other tool.

Planting in wet soil and going back in to undo any damage when the soil dries out only really works for small areas. Spring weather is always unpredictable but there
are certain techniques one can work into the garden plan to give your gardens the best chance to an early start. Working the soil with a rototiller,
broadfork, or turning fork is not advisable when the soil is too wet even if amendments like limestone and fertilizer have to be added. This much activity
can cause severe compaction so either wait until the soil dries out or till in the fall so beds are ready for planting in the spring with minimal cultivation.
Necessary amendments can be applied to the surface and scratch them in as the soil dries. Permanent paths stepping stones, and raised beds help in areas that
are slow to dry in the spring.

On May 19th, the Connecticut Envirothon celebrated its 20th Field Day at Rocky Neck State Park in East Lyme, CT. Thirty-four or more high schools sent teams of students trained in various environmental topics to compete in the state Envirothon with the winner going on to compete in the National Envirothon which I think is being held in New Brunswick this year.  The wet weather made for some difficult questions at the soils station as the pit continued to fill up with water!

Soil pit at 2011 CT Envirothon Field Day filled with water - again!

Let’s wish for some nicer, drier spring planting weather but I have to say that this cool weather has made for a lovely, lengthy spring bulb show and primrose
blooms lasting almost a month.

Yellow and gold primulas brighten up dark, rainy days

Good gardening to you!