July 2021 will certainly go down in the record books as one of the wettest summer months in decades. For example, Worcester has received over a foot of rain, its wettest July ever recorded. All this rain might be keeping your lawn looking good, but what is it doing to everything else?
As a gardener, I definitely like rain. Regular rain makes it easier to avoid running around with hoses, but this year we've gone to the other extreme. Too much moisture can be even worse than drought for plants. In really dry weather, a lot of plants will go dormant but they won't necessarily die. With the return of rain, things tend to perk up. In very warm and humid conditions with frequent showers, diseases and insects explode and can really do a lot of damage. For example, slugs are multiplying and wreaking havoc on everything from cucumbers to hostas, tearing at the leaves as they slither across and leave a sticky goo in their wake.
Mosquitoes, gnats and other insects also seem to be more abundant this summer. As we get deeper into August and September, mosquitoes could be a big enough problem that we have an outbreak of EEE.
You might notice black spots on your roses, or the lower leaves of your tomatoes turning yellow and falling off. So what can you do without putting so many chemicals into the environment?
There are some organic products available to control slugs. Sluggo, which is approved by OMRI, will bait the slugs and snails and eventually kill them. It even works after it rains.
For other fungus, bacterial and assorted blights, products with copper or sulfur can work really well on controlling these types of diseases. Also neem oil is a terrific fungicide and insecticide, which is organic.
If you are growing tomatoes or other plants and they have a lot of growth, it's a good idea to keep them somewhat pruned. If you look at a tomato plant, for example, take off some of the wayward branches. You want to allow more air flow around the plants to help limit the amount of disease. I actually take off many of the lower limbs leaving the first 12-to-18 inches completely bare, almost looking like the trunk of a tree.
The more airflow you have around your plants, the less like they are to succumb to many of these diseases.
Sometimes you might have to resort to a synthetic chemical to knock down diseases on your plants. Although I typically grow organically, this year I have used Ortho Max garden disease control. The last time I pulled this out was back in 2009, over a decade ago. When given the choice between losing my entire tomato crop or using these types of products, I try to save them.
The bottom line is this: we've had enough rain for a while. The soil is saturated, the ponds are full, and most rivers and streams are running high. By the end of July, we often hear from backyard gardeners and meteorologists, to water management that we need rain. This year, those cries have been rendered silent.