2011-06-16 / News

Wet weather is a blessing for plants

The Island Garden
By Roger Marshall

With all the wet weather we have had lately, it has not been nice to be in the garden. But if you are a plant, the weather has been perfect.

Damp misty rain is perfect for rooting new seedlings and helping plants to grow. Putting plants in the ground on a hot sunny day puts them under a lot of stress and makes it far harder for plants to adapt quickly and easily.

So the first rule of planting is to pick a day when it is overcast, with rain in the forecast. Your plants will love you for it. You won’t get a suntan and you won’t be happy when mud and dirt sticks to your knees and hands, but you will find that many more plants survive and thrive.

The second rule of planting is to make sure that you put your plants in at the same level as they were in the pot. The only plants you should plant deeper are tomatoes. If you plant a tomato at the level of the first leaves, the buried part of the stem will turn into roots, anchoring the plant more strongly and giving it a larger root system.

Third, put your plants in the hole and press the soil around them tightly. This helps to compact the soil next to the plant and anchor the plant stem firmly so that it will not blow over. I like to build a little wall out at the drip line of the plant to help keep water around the plant roots, but I have to admit, when I plant a hundred lettuce plants, I don’t often built a wall or press them in too firmly. Usually I rely on copious amounts of water to settle the soil around the plant. Which brings me to the fourth rule of planting out: Water the plants in well, especially if you plant them on a sunny day. Plants transpire water on hot sunny days and transpiration does not slow down because the plant has been transplanted. So water them in well.

Wondering how to prune rhododendrons? You may think that this is the wrong time of the year for pruning, and it is for some plants. But rhododendrons should be pruned soon.

As soon as rhododendron bushes have flowered and the flowers have dropped, the shrubs should be pruned. By pruning now, you give the bush time to grow new buds for next spring. If you wait until fall to prune your rhododendron bushes, you will prune off buds and get no flowers next spring. After you have pruned the bushes give them a shot of fertilizer to help them get going again.

Another important step to a nice garden is setting up next year’s bulbs. Snip off the seed heads on your daffodils as soon as the flowers have dropped. That stops the bulbs from putting energy into making seeds and directs the plant’s energy into increasing the size of next year’s flowers. Do not prune the leaves off of the bulbs yet. Wait at least six weeks after the flowers have bloomed before cutting the leaves back. Keeping daffodil leaves intact allows them to make more energy for better blooms next season. Fertilizing the leaves, while it may seem odd, helps to ensure larger bulbs and larger blooms next season.

While you can still see where daffodil bulbs are located, mark the area and fill in any blank areas with new bulbs for more consistent coverage next spring. If any of your daffodils have grown into huge clumps you might want to dig up the clumps after the leaves have died back and spread the bulbs around in other parts of your garden to increase the number of flowers next season.

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