Excessive Rain On Plants: How To Garden In Wet Ground

Excessive Rain On Plants: How To Garden In Wet Ground

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To a gardener, rain is generally a welcome blessing. Wet weather and plants are usually a match made in heaven. However, sometimes there can be too much of a good thing. Excessive rain on plants can cause plenty of trouble in the garden. Overly wet weather causes diseases via bacterial and fungal pathogens fostered by long term moisture on foliage and root systems. If your garden is in region of plentiful rainfall or has just been hit by storms, you might be wondering how to garden in wet ground and what are the effects of wet weather on the garden.

Effects of Wet Weather in Gardens

As mentioned above, excessive rain on plants promotes disease often evidenced in stunting, spots on foliage, decay on leaves, stems or fruit, wilting and, in severe cases, death of the entire plant. Extreme wet weather also keeps pollinators at bay affecting bloom and fruiting.

If your plants exhibit these symptoms, it may be too late to save them. However, by monitoring and early recognition, you may be able to avert disaster in the garden due to excessive rain on plants and the resulting diseases that plague them.

Wet Weather Diseases

There are a number of wet weather diseases that may afflict the garden.

Anthracnose – Anthracnose fungi spread on deciduous and evergreen trees during overly wet seasons and usually begin on lower branches, gradually spreading up the tree. Also called leaf blight, anthracnose appears as dark lesions on leaves, stems, flowers and fruit with premature leaf drop.

To combat this fungus, rake and dispose of tree detritus during the growing season and fall. Prune in the winter to increase air flow and remove infected limbs. Fungicidal sprays can work, but are impractical on large trees.

Powdery mildew – Powdery mildew is another common disease caused by excessive rain. It looks like a white powdery growth on leaf surfaces and infects new and old foliage. Leaves generally drop prematurely. Wind carries powdery mildew spores and it can germinate even in the absence of moisture.

Sunlight and heat will kill off this fungus or an application of neem oil, sulfur, bicarbonates, organic fungicides with Bacillius subtillis or synthetic fungicides.

Apple scab – Apple scab fungus causes leaves to curl and blacken and black spots appear on rose bush leaves during rainy seasons.

Fire blight – Fire blight is a bacterial disease that affects fruit trees, such as pear and apple.

Iron chlorosis – Iron chlorosis is an environmental disease, which prevents roots from in taking enough iron.

Shot hole, peach leaf curl, shock virus, and brown rot may also assault the garden.

How to Garden in Wet Ground and Prevent Disease

As with most things, the best defense is a good offense, meaning prevention is the key to disease management during rainy seasons. Sanitation is the number one cultural technique to manage or prevent disease. Remove and burn any diseased leaves or fruit from not only the tree or plant, but from the surrounding ground as well.

Secondly, select cultivars that are resistant to disease and situate them on high ground to prevent root rot. Plant only those cultivars that thrive in wet environments and avoid those that are native to drier regions.

Disease spreads easily from plant to plant when leaves are wet, so avoid pruning or harvesting until the foliage has dried off. Prune and stake the plants to improve aeration and increase dry time after heavy rainfall or dewy mornings. Improve soil drainage if it is lacking and plant in raised beds or mounds.

Remove any infected plant parts as soon as you see them. Remember to sanitize the pruners before moving on to other plants so you don’t spread the disease. Then either bag and dispose or burn infected leaves and other plant parts.

Finally, a fungicide may be applied either prior to or early in the development of disease.

Wet weather gardening: Bring on the rain

Choose the right plants for the wet conditions, sit back and let it be lush, advises Noel Kingsbury

Too much water in winter is causing gardeners in many parts of Britain increasing problems. These are not confined to those living in a flood plain or near a river that occasionally bursts its banks. Many gardens simply have a high water table.

Installing drainage may not be an option, as there may not be anywhere for the water to go. Raised beds may be a possibility for vegetables or a few choice plants, but who, realistically, is going to construct their entire garden this way?

Excess water in the winter is just something that many of us have to live with. But there is no reason why you should not have a thriving and beautiful garden. The key is selecting the right plants. But first some basic plant physiology. Why does flooding or waterlogging kill plants?

The roots of most plants need to breathe. If they cannot breathe they begin to die, and dead roots provide food for fungal diseases that then attack healthy roots. There is a big difference between woody plants (trees and shrubs) and herbaceous ones.

Woody plants cumulatively build up a root system over many years, so one flood can destroy an entire root structure. Herbaceous perennials, however, renew a large part of their root system annually, so they can recover. Perennials also have shallow root systems so can flourish in situations with a high water table.

So, a good start is to concentrate on perennials. Most, including those such as hardy geraniums and autumn-flowering asters that do not normally live in wet environments, can cope well with flooding.

The next step is to recognise those perennials that will positively relish your conditions. As a general rule, these are plants with big, lush green leaves. Rodgersias, rheum (ornamental rhubarb) and hostas are well-known moisture lovers. Conversely, avoid anything with small, leathery or grey leaves. These are generally plants from drought-prone habitats that react badly to waterlogging.

A garden dominated by wetland perennials should be a celebration of luxuriant foliage: reed-like miscanthus grasses, the feathery heads of queen of the prairie (Filipendula rubra and its relatives), the bobble-heads of newly fashionable sanguisorbas, which also have gorgeous divided foliage, the mid-summer spikes of purple loosestrifes (lythrum species).

There is also a good practical reason to concentrate on perennials if it is winter flooding rather than wet soil that is the problem. Floods bring debris and mud, which gets caught up in the twigs and branches of trees and shrubs. In a garden is dominated by perennials these can easily be cut back and reduce opportunities for such material to lodge.

Willows and dogwoods are well known for thriving in wet conditions, but what about other trees and shrubs? Native oak and ash do well, as does birch if a high water table is the main issue, rather than flooding. There are plenty of others.

Among the more available trees are the tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera), red maple (Acer rubrum) and liquidamber (Liquidamber styraciflua). The latter two are spectacular in autumn. There are two exceptional deciduous conifers: swamp cypress (Taxodium distichum) and Metasequoia glyptostroboides. Both are narrow and light enough not to overwhelm the smaller or urban garden.

Among shrubs, amelanchiers and the closely related aronias are both naturally wetland species, with cream flowers in spring and first-class autumn colour. Also good are elders (sambucus species), spiraeas, and many deciduous viburnums.

When planting, even wetland tree and shrub species should be planted on mounds. Providing extra breathing space will help young and damaged roots to establish the general rule is two barrowloads of soil heaped and gently firmed.

Evergreens tend to be plants of drier habitats, and so rarely do well on wet soils winter flooding will also cake their leaves in mud. Also to be avoided are "sub-shrubs": compact-growing twiggy species with small leaves, almost all of which are plants of dry or exposed environments such as heathers, hebes, lavenders. Not only do they rot in the wet, but their branches will trap all sorts of flood-borne debris.

Many of the trees and shrubs that flourish in the wet grow too large for smaller gardens. They can, however, be kept within bounds by coppicing - cutting back to the base every year or every few years, so that their maximum height never exceeds three metres. This makes willows produce plenty of the new growth which is often colourful in the winter.

Many other species are encouraged to produce larger than normal foliage, creating an atmosphere of exotic luxuriance. The leaves of the tulip tree, the poplar Populus lasiocarpa, wing-nut (pterocarya species) and the large-leaved willow Salix magnifica are particularly spectacular.

In my last garden this willow turned out to be the most talked about plant of all, an upright-growing clump of grey, almost tropical-looking foliage.

Waterlogging or flooding does not mean you have to give up on having a beautiful garden. But it does mean you have to think about the plants you choose. Fortunately nature's wetland habitats have given us many vigorous, easy to grow and attractive plants. Go for the lush, luxuriant look and make the most of a wetland garden.

Nitrogen Deficiency

Nitrogen is the nutrient most likely to leach out of the soil. When there is a large amount of precipitation in a short time, nitrogen is flushed out of the top soil layers into deeper layers that plant roots cannot reach. Continuous small amounts of precipitation will do the same thing but slightly slower.

Symptoms include a yellowing of the lower leaves and gradually moving to the upper leaves. If the leaves have dark green veins with yellow between them, this is an iron deficiency and nitrogen supplements will not help.


To treat a nitrogen deficiency, add extra nitrogen according to package directions one time. If the weather continues to be rainy and the soil saturated, a second application may be needed a month later. Avoid over use of nitrogen as this will cause excessive green growth and reduced fruit set.

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Wet Weather Gardening: 6 Tips When The Rain Just Won’t Go Away

If you are experiencing an over-abundance of rain, you know wet weather gardening can be a challenge.

Normally about this time of year, I would have most of my garden planted. But this year, I simply have not been able to get in my garden between downpours. Sure, I have some seeds in the ground and a few sprouts coming up, but it just doesn’t seem right to think that I could still be harvesting them in late August.

Like many in North America, I am living in an area that is experiencing an unusually rainy spring. And I must confess that it has thrown my gardening game off quite a bit. The veggies are behind, and the weeds are ahead.

In the right amounts, rain is a blessing to the home gardener. However, excessive amounts of rain can cause major damage, including plant diseases, soil erosion, and flooding. If you, too, are experiencing an over-abundance of rain, you know wet weather gardening can be a challenge. After all, it’s not like you can really run outside and put a giant umbrella over your entire garden every time it rains.

There are, however, a few things that you can do that may help.

Wet Weather Gardening Tip #1: Watch For Flooding

During heavy rains, any areas that are not draining properly should be easy to spot. If plants are allowed to stand in water for any length of time it can lead to root rot. If you do notice areas that are prone to flooding, find ways to drain water away from your garden. This can be done using rock beds or even using plastic water drains.

Wet Weather Gardening Tip #2: Examine Plants

Heavy rains and thunderstorms can cause plant damage, and extended periods of wet weather can lead to plant diseases such as powdery mildew. After a severe storm, check your plants for damage. If only a few leaves have been damaged, you can remove them, or if a plant has been bent over from the force of the rain, you may be able to stake it back up. Unfortunately, if the main stem has snapped, it is likely that the plant is a loss. If wet weather has been persisting, it can lead to plant diseases caused by fungi or bacteria. These should be treated as soon as they are discovered.

Also, remember to check the base of the plants to see if soil erosion has exposed any roots. If it has, you should cover them with soil or compost. Left exposed, the roots can dry out, which can seriously harm or even kill the plant.

Remember to be vigilant against bugs who love moist places to hide while they munch away on your plants.

Wet Weather Gardening Tip #3: Replenish Nutrients

Rain and flooding can carry much-needed nutrients away from your vegetable plants. After severe storms, it is a good idea to replace those nutrients by adding compost or an organic fertilizer to your soil.

Wet Weather Gardening Tip #4: Tread Lightly

If the soil has become waterlogged, walking on it can make it worse, as the soil becomes compacted. Avoid walking on very wet soil as there is a chance that doing so could damage the roots of your plants.

Wet Weather Gardening Tip #5: Don’t Forget Weeds, Water, And Slugs

Some weeds can become very prolific during rainy weather and can choke out your vegetables.

Turn over – or better yet, completely remove – any containers, wheelbarrows, etc., that can collect rainwater, as these can quickly become breeding grounds for mosquitoes and other pests. And remember to be vigilant against slugs who love moist places to hide while they munch away on your lettuce.

Wet Weather Gardening Tip #6: Make The Most Of It

Finally, if you, too, are living in a part of the country that has had more than its fair share of rain this year, take advantage of the positives and make the most of it. After all, what other choice do we have?

Wet weather gardening has had a few benefits in my own garden. It means that we have zucchini galore! And weeds, while they seem to be much more abundant this year than they have been in drier years, are at least easier to pull from the damp soil.

And finally, I do know that in the worst case scenario – that being that the really cold weather starts to arrive before my tomatoes and peppers ripen, that at least those are crops that I can pick green and allow to ripen inside. Maybe not ideal, but still better than store-bought!

You may also enjoy reading an additional Off The Grid News article: Herb Spirals: The Best Way To Grow Maximum Plants In Minimum Space

How do you garden in extremely wet weather? Share your tips in the comments section below.

Inkberry Bush (Ilex glabra 'Densa')

Inkberry also is native to eastern North America, where it’s often found surrounding swamps and bogs. This evergreen shrub can reach around 5 to 8 feet in height and spread, and it produces black berries in the early fall if plants of the opposite sex are growing near one another. These shrubs generally need minimal pruning, but any shaping should be done in the early spring before seasonal growth begins.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 9
  • Color Varieties: Greenish white
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
  • Soil Needs: Average, medium to wet

Watch the video: 5 Tips to Save Your Vegetable Garden After Too Much Rain


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