Cold, Wet, Wet, Cold… Strawberries!

I don’t know about you, but I feel like I live in Seattle or England, or someplace else that is reputed to be cold and rainy. While I’m not going to complain about the rain (too much), the colder than normal temperatures combined with the rain are causing some garden challenges that we are not used to seeing in Kansas. Namely, a lot of diseases and related problems that we aren’t used to! All those problems that are listed under the “caused by cool, wet conditions” we typically ignore. Well, not this year!

20150516_092950Luckily for us, the Demo Garden has excellent drainage (we installed drains a few years ago) and raised beds to help keep the soil warmer and drier than would otherwise be the case. Even so, we were still having issues with the beans due to cold soils. I’m curious to see how the squash does, particularly some of the heirlooms.

20150516_092618Of course, the lettuces and greens are perfectly happy with the weather. I’ve noticed some slugs and roly polys enjoying my lettuce at home, because they love the moisture. If you are seeing slugs or roly polys, the best thing to do is to improve the air circulation around your plants. In my case, I was seeing the problem in lettuce that I hadn’t yet gotten thinned out. The areas where the plants were not too thick were unaffected. Roly polys love decaying organic matter, so removing any damaged, diseased, or dying leaves is also important.

As I was belatedly thinning out my lettuce, I also noticed some leaves with disease lesions on them. Also due to cold, wet, and poor air movement.

Our Hotline has been taking lots of calls about fungus, including instances of potato plants rotting off. Cold, wet, poor drainage are the culprits. In this case, there’s not much to do now, other than do what you can to improve air circulation and drainage. We haven’t seen a problem in the demo garden since the potatoes are in a tall raised bed.

20150516_093028The new strawberries are happily filling in rapidly with the mild weather. The older plants are still producing some berries. Fruiting strawberries can be quite negatively affected by cold, wet weather. At home, I’ve observed slugs and roly polys eating fruit, as well as numerous berries with rotting fruit due to the wetness. Again, the keys are keeping the fruit as clean and dry as possible. I don’t have a good straw layer down, which is resulting in berries sitting on dead leaves – not good! The weather has resulted in me doing something that I almost NEVER do – pick fruit before it is 100% ripe. I’m sacrificing the best flavor for not damaged berries, which I’m willing to do under the circumstances. It’s also important to pick and remove any berries showing damage, because the rain will just keep spreading the fungal spores to the remaining fruit and the problem gets worse.

20150520_153436[1]The last problem that we can expect from the rain and cold is root damage. You can see this strawberry plant has some black and brown roots that have been damaged by the excess moisture. While we probably won’t see much sign of root damage until the rain stops, it’s likely to be a problem. I can already tell you that my basil at home isn’t going to make it. Signs of root damage include yellowing leaves, leaf curl/wilting (especially when the soil is still moist), and stunted growth. With as much rain as we’ve had, I also won’t be surprised if we see some nitrogen deficiencies in areas with sandier soils.

Well…except that we needed the rain, this post has been as gloomy as the weather! But it’s not all bad:

20150520_155208Have a great Memorial Day weekend!

About Rebecca

I'm a Horticulture Educator with Sedgwick County Extension, a branch of K-State Research and Extension, located in Wichita, KS. I teach about fruits, vegetables, and herbs.

Posted on May 22, 2015, in Around the Garden, Oh, the Weather and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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