Sunday, August 14, 2022
Aug. 14, 2022

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What wet year means for garden

Heat-loving plants are struggling with cool weather


SEATTLE — Urban gardening activist Jean Schanen of Bremerton waited until mid-June to put out her tomatoes this year.

Tomatoes need a long growing season, warmth and overnight temperatures that don’t dip below 50. She checked the forecast last week and put them in Saturday. But with the long, cold and wet spring we’ve had, it may still have been a bit too soon.

“I thought we were there,” said Schanen. She partners with Kitsap Harvest to grow produce on her three-city-lot property for the local helpline and others in need. “Sadly, we had one night under 50 since then. All I can say is wait and see,” she said.

Seattle gardener Ciscoe Morris sees this season’s quirks as a good reminder for Pacific Northwesterners to always have a few cherry tomato plants in the lineup. Their growing season is shorter and they almost always come through, he said.

His recommendation for folks who’ve planted only larger tomatoes this year? Start looking for chutney and green tomato recipes.

Seattle had its third-coldest April in the past 45 years and the 13th-coldest ever, according to the National Weather Service of Seattle. May was the second-wettest and seventh-coldest on record, with 3.82 inches of rain and an average temperature of 52.6 degrees.

Rainfall totals in Seattle and most of Western Washington have eclipsed our average June totals.

Any plant that needs a long growing season and a lot of heat is having difficulties, Morris said. Also struggling due to the rain are plants in poorly drained soil and fungus-prone plants, such as roses and peonies.

“I can almost guarantee they’re going to get black-spot fungus this year,” he said. Keep your eyes out for spotted, wilting leaves, and if you see them, peel them off and spray the plant with minimally toxic neem oil, he advised.

The 70 containers of succulents he put out after Mother’s Day, a full month later than usual, aren’t doing too well, either. He’s not sure what to do about it.

On the other hand, he said, “Many plants are blooming like we’ve never seen before, and I’m saving a lot of money since I’ve hardly watered once this year.”

If the rain continues, stay off the wet ground! You don’t want to compact that soil, he said.

And no matter what the rest of June is like, Schanen said it’s now safe to put in most any kind of produce, including tomato, eggplant and pepper starts.

It’s also a very good time to direct-seed green beans, squash and anything leafy and green, like lettuce, which can all be grown in containers and small urban spaces, she said.

Morris said to keep your eyes on the weather. If the heat comes back, everything could take off like a rocket. And while there’s no way to know for sure what our summer will bring, Morris said early action is required if another heat dome appears. “If a heat dome comes back, give everything a deep watering in the morning the day before. That saved a lot of my plants.”


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