September 3rd, 2013
The biggest issue I’ve had in the garden since mid-summer has been the sneaky dryness.
Some years we get weeks of heat, sun and not a drop of rain, and everyone knows it’s dry.
Plants wilt, the leaf edges of trees and shrubs turn brown, and the lawn goes crunch when you walk on it.
Hard to miss that.
But this summer has had a lot of cloudiness, it hasn’t been that brutally hot, and a lot of days have looked like it could rain at any time.
A fair number of days, it did actually rain a bit.
No need to water in those conditions, right?
The fake-out with that kind of weather is that moisture never really does work its way down into the root zone where it can do its magic.
A trace of rain does nothing more than wet the soil surface or the mulch, making it look like the ground is damper than it really is.
I was surprised several times last month when I dug down into my soil a few inches down, only to find dust… not much different than those 95-degree Augusts when it doesn’t rain for 3 straight weeks.
That explains the paltry growth and bloom I’ve seen on a lot of my annual flowers. The ones along my front walk – within the canopy of two large oak trees – are still pretty underwhelming despite two or three sprinklings I’ve given them since July.
As fast as I put water on, the oak roots suck it up. A 1- or 2-inch soaking rain would do way more good than I can do with a hose.
The other thing with summer weather is that rain tends to come in isolated storms.
One area could get a decent dumping while the next town over gets nary a drop.
It seems my yard has been missed by most of the storms this year.
I did get a little over a half-inch from a storm Sunday night, but it came and left in about 20 minutes. I’ll take it, but an inch over a day would be better if I could place an order.
Although the soil has been dry, the air has been humid, and that’s added up to a worse-than-usual season for leaf disease.
Most leaf diseases flourish when there’s ample moisture on the leaf surface. Those little traces of rain are good at wetting leaves, and humid air alone provides enough surface dampness to fuel fungal growth.
Powdery mildew has done a number on a variety of my garden plants, including beebalm, phlox, dogwood, ninebark and squash.
Curiously enough, I still haven’t seen much trouble from the dreaded downy mildew disease that wiped out everyone’s impatiens last year. The people who risked planting them this season are still enjoying decent displays. Even my little 4-pack of pink ‘Accent’ impatiens – planted mainly to monitor the status of mildew – is still blooming away in the backyard shade.
I heard some gardeners have run into late blight lately with their tomatoes, but I haven’t seen it myself yet. My tomatoes usually die a slow death from septoria leaf spot and early blight before late blight has a chance to get them. Late blight is the particularly deadly disease that can shut down a seemingly healthy patch of tomatoes in a matter of days.
And one last gardening issue worth complaining about is one that’s been more of a problem for the gardener than the plants – biting bugs.
I don’t know if it’s just my yard or what, but I’ve had more biting bugs flying around these last few weeks than I can ever remember.
Unlike deer flies or even black flies – bugs that I can see biting me – little welts just show up on ankles, hands and fingers.
I’m suspicious of chiggers, which are such tiny bugs that they’re often called “no-see-‘ums.”
It’s either them or tiny mosquitoes.
All I know for sure is that these surreptitious biters hurt, and they make even me think twice about whether I really want to go out and pull a few weeds.
Why doesn’t sneaky dryness kill pesky little bugs?