published Saturday, January 19th, 2013

Pat Lea: Identify areas of stress on plants in severe weather

By Pat Lea

Q. Can all this rain hurt my newly planted trees and shrubs? I was told fall is a good time to plant.

A. Questions about nature, nurture, weather and climate conditions require complex answers, and this is a short-answer format. But you can learn to evaluate the conditions that determine how successful your gardening efforts will be. Ask yourself a few questions. How new are your plants? How healthy? How well planted? How appropriate for conditions and location? How much rain has your soil retained? Our local climate supports a wide variety of plants and is temperate enough that vast numbers will do well, even with erratic weather.

So, take this opportunity of severe weather to check your plants and soil condition now when the soil is fully saturated with rain. Note where you see puddles, where the ground is significantly muddy, where there is serious erosion or rivulets. If you become familiar with your garden soil during times of excessive rain or drought, you will know where the areas of stress are most severe.

Some plants can die quickly if they have poor drainage and stand in water. First signs are yellowing of foliage and peeling bark. We are dealing with water now, but wind and pockets of deep cold are also difficult. Check for them as the season progresses.

If you have fussy or delicate plants in these areas, you might need to move them to areas better suited to their needs. Redesign your garden so the toughest plants are in the difficult areas. Check the stems of new plants for water damage. See if roots or root balls have been exposed by erosion. Fix any problems that you find as the weather clears. A plant with an exposed root ball needs attention. A plant with dried buds or tips can be trimmed later. Yellowed plants with no drainage need to be moved in spring. Plants are strong and can adapt, but you can be a more successful gardener if you know your environment and respond quickly.

Email Pat Lea at lea.pat@gmail.com.

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