Woohoo! We did not get nearly as cold last night as they were predicting! I saw lots of 32s and some 30s, although rumor has it that up in Reno County they got down to 27 in some places. One more cold night to get through tonight!
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!
Luckily 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.
Of 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.
The 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.
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:
You didn’t actually think we were done with winter, did you? I know, I was hoping too. Here in the Wichita area we were greeted with a dusting of snow this morning, and the forecast for overnight low temperatures are ranging from 25-28 degrees.
The difficult thing is that there is a huge difference in the damage you can expect in that range. 28 degrees will cause a little damage to fruit trees in bloom and cool season vegetables. 25 degrees can kill most of the flowers on a fruit tree and cause more severe damage to vegetables.
Of course, if you already have tomatoes, peppers, or other warm season vegetables planted outside, you had better have them covered already. Otherwise, they will probably be dead. Honestly, you would be better off bringing them back inside.
Here in the Demo Garden, we only have cold tolerant things out right now. (Well, except for maybe that poor rhubarb…) We were planning on planting beans and a few other things tomorrow, but we are going to push that back at least one more week. Beans need warmer soil, and I think that our soil is going to need to warm up again after this weather.
It looks like we are due for one last onset of sub-freezing temperatures this week. (Next week they are forecasting 36, which still isn’t that spectacular.) The forecast Thursday night is for 29 degrees. If you only have cool season vegetables out, this really isn’t anything to worry about. You don’t even need to cover them. If you’ve got tomatoes or peppers planted, you will definitely want to cover them!
I also noticed that our newly planted rhubarb crown bit the dust sometime in the past couple weeks. It had a couple of new leaves growing, but they are gone now and the crown seems crumbly and dead. I suspect fluctuating temperatures had a lot to do with that. Rhubarb crown number 2 is coming soon! We’ll see if we can keep that one alive.
Another Friday is here! There is no sign of germination where we planted seeds last week, so I’m beginning to get a little concerned. I haven’t done a great job of keeping the soil moist, but then it was covered with snow for part of the last week. I’m hoping that it is just the cold weather (keeping the soil cold) that is delaying germination of the typically quick-germinating radishes. It is so weird to have a late spring!
Here’s a quiz for you…how doe you tell if what you are seeing is grass or garlic or shallots? This picture isn’t too difficult to distinguish, but when the garlic or shallots are smaller it can be a real challenge! The garlic leaves usually feel thicker and waxier to me than grass, and of course, they smell like garlic too!
The rhubarb crown they planted a couple weeks ago is starting to slooooowly put on some growth. I could be wrong, but I think these leaves look like they got a little more cold than they would have preferred.
Speaking of cold, the lettuce and chard in our cold frame got a little more cold than they would have strictly preferred this week, since we left the cold frame completely open when it got so cold earlier this week. Somewhat surprisingly, they really don’t look that much the worse for wear!
This is the obligatory “before” picture. Rumor has it that we are going to be starting work on this shade garden this week. If nothing else, the compost has to move from the parking lot into the garden, since the farmers’ market is starting a week from tomorrow!
Have a great weekend!