TALKING GARDENING with DOUG – A Positive Spin On All This Rainfall

We all know that water is a precious natural resource and an essential component of our lives and landscapes. Without it, nothing on Earth would survive. Did you know that less than 1% of all the water in the world is available as fresh, clean water? With all the rain that we have had this year, don’t you feel a little guilty that we are being bullies with hoarding most of this 1%?

What a year it has been when it comes to rainfall. As of October 29, we have had 55.64 inches of precipitation for the year. Normal is 35.94.” That means we are over 19 inches above normal. Think about this – 19 inches above average. That is quite an amount of rain. And, we have two months to go in this year to add to this total. We are on course to have one of the wettest years on record. Last year, we had a grand total of 33.17.”

Just too much of a good thing. I have been in the green industry business for over 40 years. With every year come some gardening challenges. This year, so many gardeners and landscapers are dealing with plants dying because of being too wet for too long a period of time. It’s referred to as “wet feet” when plant roots die due to overwatering. When roots die, then so goes the plant in most cases. Also, this year we have had above normal issues with fungus problems such as leaf spot. The Big question is: Would we rather have a record rainfall or deal with drought like in past years? Personally, I would rather deal with too much rain than dealing with drought. I find a drought to be rather scary at times especially when water restrictions are put into place.

One positive spin with all this rainfall is that our rivers, streams, reservoirs, and underground aquifers are all full as we head into the last couple months of the year. Our plants are in the beginning stages of going dormant which means they require less water. So, all this water should remain with us for quite a few months.

Another positive thought is that we can turn off our irrigation system. Our grounds are very saturated and there is no need to add to this saturation. So, save yourself some money on the water bill.

Yet another positive note to all the rain is that it is making the Fall planting season one of the best in years. Our soil has plenty of moisture content and with a warm October, our soil is still warm. I checked my trusty soil thermometer this morning (October 31) and our soil temperature is 52 degrees. The soil is still warm to do most anything right now including adding any grass seed to bare spots in the lawn. The combination of moisture and warm soil temperature leads to good root growth with all newly planted plants.

Conversely, we have had so many plants suffer from all this rain. Some plants that come to mind are all our hardy succulents such as all the sedums. Different types of herbs have also suffered from being too wet for too long a period of time and not able to dry out a little.

Another negative with the rainfall is dealing with all the different forms of fungus. I have never experienced so many types of mushrooms growing in the mulch and lawn. Also, all the leaf spot on many of our favorite landscape plants such as Hydrangea, Pieris, Bayberry, and many other shrubs.

As of October 26, we have yet to have a “killing” frost. My blooming Dragon Wing Begonias are still gorgeous. With no frost, this means that mosquitoes are still around. Walk around your property and check all areas that could have standing water. This includes container gardens with saucers that need to be emptied. It only takes mosquitoes a couple days to lay eggs and hatch out.

Do some inspecting of your shrubs and especially trees. With saturated, soggy soils trees could be leaning and any strong winds could lead to falling trees.

Bottom line, rain is a good thing any time of year – for 2018 it has been all year long and it’s all about staying positive and handling any challenge with dignity.


5 thoughts on “TALKING GARDENING with DOUG – A Positive Spin On All This Rainfall”

  1. Doug
    Thank you for a very insightful article. The rains and warmer weather have been particularly harsh on cherry trees and Japanese maples. What is your recommendation for treating the fungus and when should it be done?

  2. My arborvitae are looking a little brown here and there, still ok to feed?
    Also the bottom of my leyland cypress has dead branches; if I cut them away will new branches grow?
    With so much rain, some soil as been eroded around a large tree and roots are near the surface. Mulch to the drip line? Add ground cover within drip line area? Suggestions?

    • Elizabeth,
      Thank you for reading our educational blogs and taking time to send us your gardening questions. As for your arborvitae, many of our evergreens are doing some shedding of needles. The plants are in the process of going dormant for the season. Because of this I do not recommend feeding at this time. I suggest holding off doing any feeding of any plants until late winter or around the first of March. This is when the plants are beginning to come out of dormancy. Yes, you can put down a thin layer of mulch around shrubs and trees this time of year. And, mulch to the drip line would be fine. Planting ground cover around tree roots can be a little tricky. Can you dig holes without getting into too many surface roots of the tree?

  3. Hi Doug. Your columns are so informative! Thank you. Yes, good and bad news with rain. My big problem is the dying if br as McGee, then whole plant, of 2 bay laurels. They were about 12 years old and over 6 feet next to my deck that extends near my front door. This has occurred late summer to now. They were a big part of my landscape and gave privacy and green on the deck. Is this from water? They have been so hardy!

  4. Thank you Doug for your great column. so informative. My azalea bushes have grown so large…is it safe to cut them back and if so when would be the best time to do it?

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