With a cool, wet spring that seemed to last halfway into summer, we can expect a number of problems in the garden this year related to the weather conditions. Let’s go through a short list of potential issues, bullet by bullet, and what you can do about it this growing season.
Late Planting — Many of us couldn’t our gardens planted, let alone tilled, until June this year. This means that our plants are smaller than they should be at this time of year, causing a delay in produce harvest. Small plants are at greater risk of water stress, so you’ll want to make sure you keep everything well-watered through these dog days of July. Finally, these smaller plants may be at greater risk of pest and disease damage, so keep an eye on them. Keeping plants well-watered and properly fertilized can boost their “immune” systems.
Japanese Beetles — Populations of this annual pest are spotty throughout the state this year. They began emerging a little later than usual in our area. We usually expect to see some in mid-June. Some areas that typically see a lot of damage have seen virtually no beetles, whereas other areas that aren’t usually hard hit have had trees completely eaten. Fruit trees are a favorite food of the beetle, but they will feed on many other types of trees and plants. There is no real effective control method for Japanese beetles. The best course of action is simply to tolerate damage on trees, even if the tree loses many of its leaves. Trees can weather a year or so of severe damage. In your garden, the best course of action is to physically remove the beetles from your vegetables and then to put them in a bucket of soapy water.
Fungal Diseases — With our cool, wet spring, I have seen a greater incidence of fungal diseases on vegetable plants and trees this year. On tomato plants, early blight has been a problem. Early blight, a disease that affects the tomato
family, produces a bullseye pattern on the stems and leaves of plants like tomatoes and potatoes. It can progress rapidly, causing the death of the affected plant and easily spreading to other nearby plants. Best practice here is to remove the blighted plant and sanitize any tools/gloves used to minimize the spread of disease. In regards to trees, I have seen a lot of anthracnose this year. Anthracnose is a fungal disease that affects many types of trees. It is a problem every year, but with weather conditions like we’ve had this year, it has been more prevalent. It will cause leaves to turn mottled and “ugly,” sometimes forcing the tree to drop its leaves halfway through summer. It’s very alarming to watch a perfectly healthy-looking tree have its leaves look so bad and then end up losing those leaves. But not to worry — most healthy trees can tolerate a year or two of leaf loss from anthracnose infection with no long-term effects. This is good, because treatment is difficult.
There are other diseases to watch out for, like powdery mildew, which shows up as white, dusty-looking spots on the leaves of grapes, melons and even onions. Fungicides may be used to treat powdery mildew.
Hot Temperatures — We have been having a warm July so far. Warm temperatures combined with a lack of rain will stress young plants. Young plants have a limited ability to access water — not as many roots, and roots not as long. They need more help when it’s hot out to encourage plant growth and root development. Water frequently and deeply.
I hope that your garden is a success this year in spite of the conditions.