Typically, by late July and early August gardens are dry and require regular watering. This summer our gardens may exhibit effects of the unusually heavy rainfalls and flooding in McHenry County. Frequent heavy rains stress garden plants and may lead to fungal and bacterial diseases caused by moisture on foliage and root systems.

Fungal diseases welcome damp conditions and once started, they are difficult to manage. Some fungal spores are carried by the wind so infection cannot be avoided but a light mulch can prevent soil borne spores from splashing up on foliage. Remove and discard diseased foliage using sanitized clippers between plants to avoid spreading spores. Prune plants to create more air circulation and sun exposure.

Pollinators have difficulty getting around in the rain and wet pollen does not carry well on the wind. Plants may not set fruit during very rainy or very warm periods. Usually fruit set will begin later as more conducive weather resumes.

Tomatoes often exhibit cracking as a result of too much rain. They literally burst at the seams. This may also occur with other garden produce such as radishes and melons and it is best to use it as soon as possible. Next year look for crack resistant varieties.

Blossom end rot is a black, rotten area on the blossom end of tomatoes. Although this condition is more likely to appear during very dry conditions, it can occur with extreme wet situations. The cause is inability of the tomato to take up enough calcium from the soil. Good prevention management is even watering. Like cracking tomatoes, blossom end rot could also show up in other garden produce like melons and squash.

For gardens located in areas that may have standing water after heavy rains, consider for the future mounding soil in a raised row or building structured raised beds. Better drainage will benefit plants by keeping roots from sitting in excess moisture. Roots must have air in the soil to breathe. If the standing water is an isolated or short-term situation, creating a trench to channel excess water away may be enough.

If produce has come in direct contact with floodwater, the best measure is to destroy it to avoid consuming food that has been contaminated with pathogens. Never preserve produce that has been exposed to flood water. Any tools used in a contaminated area should be cleaned with a diluted bleach solution to avoid spreading plant diseases. For definitive guidelines on safely using produce from flooded gardens consult this informative site from the University of Wisconsin-Extension: https://foodsafety.wisc. edu/assets/factsheets/Safely%20Using%20Produce% 20from%20Flooded%20Gardens.pdf.

Contact us at sdeberg@marengo-uniontimes. com.

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