Rain Problems in Gardens
By Pat Curran, Horticulture Educator, Tompkins County Cooperative Extension
(Originally published in August 2011)
Question: We've had so much rain lately. What landscape problems should we watch out for?
The rain has been both very heavy and very frequent, and farmers are hurting while they try to get their crops planted. On the gardening side of things, the GrowLine, our horticultural hotline here at Cooperative Extension, has received a number of rain-related problem questions. A few weeks ago, a garlic sample was brought in with badly yellowed leaves, the result of imperfect drainage. This much rain pinpoints the sites that have marginal drainage. In a dry year, these sites would be OK.
Other problems that have appeared lately include raspberries with yellow foliage, probably the result of a fungal root rot in a too-damp spot; peach leaves that appear bubbly and blistered, the result of a fungus that is worse in cool damp springs; apple scab, another fungal leaf infection; and fireblight, a bacterial infection of pears that causes branch terminals to look scorched.
Gardeners with clay soil (most of us around here!) should consider how to prevent problems, for instance by growing sensitive plants like lavender and culinary sage on slopes and mulching them with pea gravel instead of wet organic mulches. After some winter losses, I would add hardy mums to this list.
Drainage can be improved by digging shallow ditches next to planting beds, to intercept and carry water off. These ditches can then be planted (if desired) with herbaceous perennial plants that prefer excess moisture, such as swamp milkweed, cardinal flower, and Joe-Pye weed for sun, or royal, cinnamon, and interrupted ferns, and turtlehead for partial shade (all natives). Damp-loving non-native perennials for partial shade include Japanese primrose, Rodgersia, and Ligularia.
For run-off from roofs or paved areas, consider installing a rain garden. For brochures on rain garden design and plant selection, please contact the GrowLine at (607) 272-2292.
Last updated January 29, 2021