The Ottumwa Courier

May 28, 2013

Wet weather not harming plants so far

Courier Staff Writer

---- — OTTUMWA — Despite the heavy rains that moved through and are forecast for the coming week, experts say area gardeners have nothing to worry about. Yet.

Jim Bremer, manager of Earl May in Ottumwa, says that while it's been incredibly wet this spring, that doesn't mean flowers and trees are in trouble.

“Heavy rains don't hurt plants. It's prolonged, saturated conditions that will hurt things,” Bremer said.

So just a few weeks of heavy rains aren't the issue, he added. “If the ground dries out and we have a normal June, everything will be fine.”

A plant's roots will got waterlogged when they're exposed to extended periods of saturated conditions. Then they can't take in more water later when they need it the most, Bremer explains. The top of the plant will then dry out regardless of how much you water it.

“It doesn't hurt the plant if the water level goes back down. The roots grow when they have dry soil, not when they're wet. Once it dries out, they'll return to normal,” he said.

One of the biggest mistakes that gardeners can make, Bremer said, is neglecting to water plants once the rainy season is over. Just because they have plenty of moisture now doesn't mean they won't need more in the weeks to come.

“We've had a wet spring, so people think it's OK. People lose plants because they think they've gotten all the moisture they'll need for the summer, but they still need to water weekly,” he said.

The best advice for gardeners right now is based on common sense — be careful of where they put new plants and trees.

“Don't plant in low areas. Plant on a ridge or slope, somewhere so they won't be in bottom areas that are saturated with water,” Bremer said.

And continue to mulch and fertilize everything that you're putting in the ground right now.

“We can't really project how much more rain we'll get, but you need to mulch really well in case it's a normal June,” he said. “We just can't say what the weather's going to do, so we'll just prepare like it will be an average June.”

Fertilizing a lawn that's had this much rain is also going to help in the long run.

“Rain takes the nutrients out of the soil. When you mow, you'll see those yellow patches,” Bremer said. “If you use a summer fertilizer, the lawn will stand the dry summer weather better. The lawn may grow fast now, but the fertilizer will make it grow thicker and greener. You'll have to mow them both just as much, but you'll see how much healthier the fertilized grass is.”

No plants can take being in saturated soil for a long period of time, but Bremer says a few days of wind and sunshine after these wet, cool days will bring everything around.

“We're definitely not in panic mode yet,” he said.