Soggy ground good for gardeners

Planting in rain allows crops to keep cool on hot days



For the two weeks before Memorial Day weekend, local gardeners could plant vegetables and flowers on bright sunny days. Unfortunately, that kind of weather is not the best for your plants.

On hot days, plants need to respire to keep them cool, just like humans sweat. When we disturb the roots of plants by putting them in the ground, the tiny root hairs that absorb water from the soil get disturbed and can’t do their job. This means the plant often cannot get enough moisture to keep the leaves full, and they wilt. Thus, your first job after planting on a sunny day is to water your plants.

A better way to set out your plants, however, is to put them in the ground on a soggy wet day. This is probably uncomfortable for you, but it is beneficial for your plants. On wet days, the leaves do not have to respire as much, thus they do not need so much water. Secondly, the ground is already moist, so water is available for your plants immediately.

Unfortunately, however, water probably will run off your collar, down your back and you will also be quite moist — and probably unhappy. Just think how your plants will love your sacrifice and hopefully reward you appropriately.

The other item to avoid after planting is wind. Wind tends to dry out your plants. If you have one or two pieces of glass you can set to windward of your plants, they will love you for it. If you have potted plants, try to avoid exposing them to high winds. They will often blow over, as two of my trees did last week. That spills the dirt out of the plots and disturbs the roots. If you have plants that might blow over, weight the pots down or tie them down. You also can sit on the pot, but that is often not a good idea when the wind blows for several hours or at night.

Some of your new plants will need mesh or netting over them to prevent them from getting eaten. Blueberries, redcurrants and elderberries, for example, should have this protection. Otherwise, squirrels, raccoons and birds will eat them before you can enjoy them. Smaller plants, such as lettuce and peas, should also be covered. I find rabbits and voles seem to like both, and demolish them as soon as I put them out.

Later in the year, when the corn is almost ready, the raccoons seem to know when I am about to pick it. They shred the ears the day before I go out for it. By covering it and making the garden look like Fort Knox, I can prevent animal depredations.

This season, I’ve planted a few exotics. Curry plants, Shishito peppers, lentils, lemon grass and galangal will grace the garden. I’ve also added several different types of squash, including Lakota, Red Kuri and Rouge vif D’Etampes, to grow alongside the butternut and acorn squash.

It will be interesting to see how the garden turns out.