February 2018

Rain pushes growth and roots struggle to keep up

A branch of ‘Limelight’ hydrangea (H. paniculata) grew about 7 inches and exhibits a bit of chlorosis. © Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

Compared to last year, when crispy and brown defined the landscape, this year’s weather has created a lush, tropical jungle.

Trees, shrubs, perennials and vegetables have been growing rapidly. Aphids love this fresh new growth. They are slow moving insects that take on the color of the plant they are eating, such as brown, green, red, yellow or white.

Aphids suck the juices out of flowers, leaves and their buds, stunting them or causing them to be malformed. A strong spray of the hose will knock aphids off plants.

Some plants may have a yellow cast to them or their leaves are chlorotic, where the veins are greenbut the tissue between them is yellow or mottled. This could be from all of the rain washing nitrogen from the soil. Or it could be the plant’s roots trying to catch up with all of the rain.

The fine, hair-like roots on trees and shrubs seek out water. However, these roots have likely taken a hit from the last three years of low rainfall and droughtand they are trying to catch up. Or it could be the pH of the soil. Too alkaline or too acidic, and plants may not be able to take up nutrients.

The first step to learn what’s going on is to get a soil test. Purdue University has a good publication to tell you how.

Hot weather precautions

When gardening in hot weather, be sure to drink lots of water and protect yourself from sunburn and bug bites. © Jeff Wasserman/Dreamstime

When the weather is hot and humid, gardeners need to make sure they are not overcome by the heat. Here are some tips:

  • Drink lots of water before, during and after working in the garden.
  • Work outdoors in early morning and evening.
  • Wear loose fitting clothing and a hat. Use sunscreen and bug repellent.
  • Work in pairs for big jobs, such as tree or shrub removal or creating a new garden bed.



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