April was an extremely dry month for early spring. I thought it was an indication on what the trend might be for this growing season, but in May it started to rain and rain and then it rained some more. By the end of June we had over 10 inches of rain in an eight week period. This more than made up for the dry April, but made it very tough for local farmers and gardeners.
One of the early spring rules is not to work the soil when it is too wet, muddy or super saturated. It is important to let the soil dry out before we plant. Working wet soil creates soil compaction problems. When soil is compacted air is removed from the soil and the plants root system does not get the adequate amount of oxygen necessary for its survival. Also, when planting in supersaturated soil the amount of water suffocates the plants root system and does not allow for air transfer causing the root system to die off and can lead to root rot. Soil with a higher organic content and sandy soil tends to sustain plants and dry out quicker. Heavier soils with high concentrations of clay will dry out much slower.
This springs heavy rain also delayed flower bloom time. May fruit and vegetables got a slow start because of lack of sunlight. Bugs like tent caterpillars and beetles were less of a problem. Fungus were slow starting because early in the month after it rained the wind picked up and plants and soils dried out faster. Once the hot humid weather settled in, fungus became prominent on trees, shrubs and perennials. Among them were Powdery mildew and apple cedar rust, both which can be treated with an organic fungicide containing sulfur.
To try and limit the amount of powdery mildew in our gardens it is important when planting perennials to space them properly. Proper spacing allows an increase in air circulation where the plants leaves are able to dry out faster, creating an unfavorable environment for fungus. If there is a situation of an overgrown garden, dividing plants and pruning some branches off of overgrown shrubs would be very beneficial to the plants in the garden.
There are a large amount of perennials in bloom this month at the garden center which would be great additions to a flower bed. Spigelia marlandica also called Indian Pink has beautiful red buds that open to a yellow flower with four petals. This plant adds a pop of color to any shade garden and will seed in and spread. Sisyrinchium angustifolium or Blue-Eyed Grass is another great perennial that provides long summer blooms. This plant prefers full sun and closes its flowers at night and before a rain storm. The blue petals and yellow centers make this plant a nice low growing grass like perennial. Any Rudbeckia species or Black Eyed Susan brightens up gardens with its yellow long blooming June through September flowers. Monarda or Bee Balm has aromatic foliage and beautiful red flowers that attract butterflies and hummingbirds. Liatris spicata also attracts butterflies to its racemes of purple spires and prefers full sun. Another sun loving plant is Echinecea purpurea, not only is this plant an immunity boosting powerhouse for our body, it is also loved by butterflies and birds. Each of these plants provide long lasting blooms and color that support native wildlife in our area. Remember when planting to space properly and pick the right soil and area for the plants particular needs.
Pete Muroski & Cassandra Kessman
Native Landscapes and Garden Center