Rain perking up flowers, lawns and plants
AUGUST is the holiday month, yet you would have become pretty fit if you were holidaying in Ireland over the past few weeks as you would have sprinted for cover many times to avoid the rain showers, some of biblical proportions, that have fallen across the country. This mixture of summer rain and warm sunny spells is both a blessing and a curse, helping and hindering us gardeners in equal measure.
The rain was a welcome refresher for many plants that were showing signs of drought. Many trees and shrubs in my garden had begun to drop some leaves in an attempt to cut down on transpiration, effectively water loss and the Hydrangeas have perked up again after the leaves had begun to resemble wet rags. I have only watered my pots and baskets once in August so far and when you consider this can be a daily job it reflects just how much moisture has fallen of late.
In the veg garden runner beans have benefited as they love some summer rain , spraying the flowers and leaves with water during a dry spell is always welcome. New crops of peas will also be beneficiaries allowing them to produce fat fresh pods. Young spring cabbage plants and other seedlings and over wintering crops will get a kick out of the recent conducive growing conditions as will the ever present slug population, so beware!
Some root vegetables such as beetroot, carrots and parsnips may now be prone to splitting as they have enjoyed the rain and it has encouraged them to put on a second growth spurt. There is also a sign of this on some trees and shrubs, which in my garden have had a little resurgence of spring and are displaying uncharacteristic new growth.
Late and repeat flowering herbaceous plants and roses, now looking less tired, will hopefully make full use of the rain and give us a late show of colour. Likewise, spring flowering shrubs may well take advantage of the recent conditions and the already warm summer and be inspired to produce a bumper season next year on top of their champion performance this year.
Lawns have begun to green up again and you could apply a light rate of fertiliser to give the grass a gee up for the rest of the season, say half the manufacturers recommended spring application rate. Remember in Ireland grass has a long growing season, easily up to Christmas, so it won't do it any harm. Also look out for a second coming of weeds in your lawns. Dandelions are rearing their yellow heads again and daisies and plantain will appreciate the damp, be vigilant and knock them on the head now by spot spraying as necessary.
Lawns are not the only place to find weeds resurgent, seeds elsewhere have been raised from dormancy and are creeping back into flower beds and borders. Shepherds purse is a curse and appears to take vindictive delight in seeding everywhere despite my close attentions. It looks a little like a small summer Alyssum for want of a better description. Petty Spurge, a type of Euphorbia, is another annual weed that just keeps giving but is easily and satisfyingly pulled up and never has the blanket cover that the shepherds purse can produce. Try to stop these weeds from seeding and lighten your load for next spring.
Another problem that can occur with heavy summer downpours are if they are combined with strong winds, which they have been of late. With large amounts of water sitting on plants it can make them very heavy and susceptible to, in the case of trees and shrubs breakage, and herbaceous plants and sweet pea and beans on supports being flattened. A good shake to dislodge water can help with this but it's not a particularly inviting job if there are torrents of rain falling and high winds to boot. Check tree stakes and ties to make sure they are secure.
Mildew can be a problem on virtually any plant at this time of year and in these conditions. Honeysuckle, apples, Phlox, the daisy family and all roses are susceptible as are courgettes, cucumbers, currants and peas but you can find it anywhere. Spraying with any general fungicide should help as it is a leaf surface disease and easily accessed. Look for early signs of infection as mildew is rapid to spread and heavily affected plants are much harder to clear of the fungus.
One thing is for sure the holiday is over, it's roll up the sleeves and back out there and get gardening.