Wilted Crops After Torrential Rain

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Calls have been “flooding” the Extension office following last week’s torrential rainfall. The questions are always the same, “what’s wrong with my plants (mostly tomatoes and beans) because they are wilted.” The next question is, “ how can I fix it”?

Heavy rain has resulted in saturated soil with many gardens under water for hours or even days. Plants need water but how much is too much? Last week was a great example of too much water. Roots need oxygen which is present in the soil. When the soil is saturated or flooded, the water displaces the oxygen which simply causes the fine root hairs to die from lack of oxygen. These root hairs take up water and nutrients to feed the plants and when they are gone the plant has no way to get food or water, resulting in wilting.

Will the plants recover? A lot of things depend on a plant’s ability to overcome flooding. The amount of time the plant is under water, how quickly the soil dries out afterwards, the type of plants and the age of the plants all factor in to the plants ability to revive and continue to grow. Vegetables such as beans and tomatoes are particularly sensitive to flooding or saturated soils, but if the soil dries out quickly they will usually be okay. If plants are mulched, rake back the mulch for a few days to encourage the soil to dry out. But, if plants are too badly damaged, nothing can be done to save them.

Yellowing foliage is also a big problem after a heavy rain event. There again, compromised roots can play a part in yellow leaves but also the leaching out of nitrogen in the soil due to heavy rain can cause yellowing. An application of slow-release fertilizer or a liquid fertilizer such as Miracle Gro will help correct the problem.

Gardeners should also be on the lookout for increased incidences of diseases such as root rots, early blight and powdery mildew. If you have questions about your crops, you are welcome to bring a sample by the Extension office for us to look at. We can make  recommendations on how to proceed for a successful harvest.

The weather will always drive the progress of the summer vegetable garden and just remember the old farmer’s saying, “a dry summer will worry a farmer but a wet summer will kill him.”