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Excessive moisture problematic for gardens
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Plants and lawns cannot survive without water, but it is possible to have too much of a good thing.

While above average rain can have a positive impact on drought conditions, it can have a negative impact on gardens and lawns, creating a breeding ground for disease. In Hall County, rain has been abundant creating fungal diseases on vegetables and garden plants. And we have even seen an array of colorful and interesting mushrooms sprout from the ground because of the cool, wet conditions.

Overly wet conditions

Vegetables such as tomatoes and peppers can have curling or rolling of the leaves. They can also develop fungal diseases such as late blight, cracking of the skin and Botrytis, which is a powdery mold that develops from excessive moisture. Signs of late blight include brown spots on the stems and eventually spots on the fruit. Spores from the fungus can be spread by the wind and be dispersed to new plants.

Also, nutrients in the garden soil can have excessive leaching, due to heavy moisture, leaving plants in need of extra fertilization. Yellowing of the leaves can be a sign of dwindling nutrients, and your plants may need a new dose of fertilization. A slow-release fertilizer can help replenish nutrients leached from the soil

Garden plants

Root rot, leaf spots and powdery mildew may be a problem when excessive moisture conditions are present. Scout garden plants and look for problems. Make sure there are no drainage problems, especially in areas where standing water may be present. Too much standing moisture can lead to roots sitting in too much wet soil.

If wet conditions continue through the summer, amending the soil to create better drainage might be an option, especially if prized shrubs and trees are in the affected area. Dig trenches 2 to 3 feet deep to redirect water and lay gravel or perforated pipe to solve drainage issues.

Leaf spot and powdery mildew can occur from fungal diseases as well. The fungus is splashed on the leaves of plants as it rains creating unsightly problems. Adding a layer of mulch or compost to keep the soil covered helps protect plants from splashing fungus and helps the soil stay aerated and well-drained.

Fungicides can also help prevent leaf spot. Mildew problems can be solved with organic fungicides as well as products containing sodium bicarbonate if applied before heavy infestations.

Funky fungi

Mushrooms are the reproductive part of fungi that live in the soil. Most of the time, they stay underneath the soil breaking down organic matter. But given the perfect mixture of moisture, shade, weather and organic material, they burst through the soil.

Mushrooms can emerge overnight after a rainy spell. They are in mulch, shrubs and even the lawn. The appearance of these strange growths can surprise and mystify the gardener with their funky shapes and bright colors.

Look for the mutinus mushroom. It is in the Stinkhorn family of mushrooms and there have been some sightings in the past few weeks. It looks like a long carrot and can be orange or yellow with a black top.

Slime mold called Dog Vomit can also appear. And yes, it looks like dog vomit.

This mold develops overnight and starts off yellow or orange in a semiliquid that becomes an foamlike substance and then hardens. Disgusting to look at, the fungus fortunately is not harmful to a plant.

Mushroom and mold feed on organic matter and are found on other organic substances such as wood or mulch.

Dispose or rake them up. When the weather conditions dry and warm weather emerges, they will dry up and disappear on their own. Decreasing shade in problem areas and increasing drainage will help decrease the number. Waiting for the sun to come out usually takes care of them.

Positives

On a positive note, mushrooms are an indication of organic material in the soil. This makes the soil more productive.

Rain is a wonderful thing, but the side effects of too much or too little can be challenging at times. But as sure as the sun sets, the warm, dry days will return.

Wanda Cannon serves as Master Gardener coordinator and horticulture assistant for the UGA Cooperative Extension office in Hall County. Contact her at 770-535-8293, wcannon@hallcounty.org. Her column appears biweekly and on gainesvilletimes.com/life.

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