Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Northern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
January, 2002
Regional Report

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Although they are beautiful, mushrooms in the lawn are not necessarily a good thing.

Wet Yet?

Will this rain ever stop! I'm thinking of building an ark if this precipitation keeps up much longer. I have earned the regal title of "Worm Goddess" because every time I pass a poor earthworm on the street or sidewalk that has been washed out of his hole, I scoop him up and toss him back onto terra firma. I think one of the grateful creatures actually bowed to me the other day.

Plants Need Oxygen

Anyway, it's not just earthworms that are suffering from the excess water. Your garden needs a little attention too. Plants need oxygen in the soil so that the roots can work properly. Although some plants are aquatic by nature and have adapted to a wet environment, most of the shrubs and trees that we use for landscaping here in the west are more suited to a dry climate.

Succulents especially are having a tough time with all this rain. If possible, cultivate the soil around water logged succulent plantings. Cultivating the soil will incorporate oxygen into the top few inches of soil. If you have pots of cactus or succulents outdoors, you may even consider tipping them on their sides temporarily to let the soil drain.

Lawn Care

Let your lawn grow long and shaggy rather than mowing over wet soil. If you run the mower back and forth over the lawn, you will compact the soil around the roots. Compacted soil won't accept water or nutrients later in the season. If at all possible, use an aerator and go over the entire surface of the lawn area to allow oxygen into the soggy soil. Also, don't fertilize your lawn just yet. New growth is especially susceptible to attacks from fungus diseases. Besides, if you fertilize, you are going to have to mow right away so just hold off for a while until we get some sun.

I have seen mushrooms growing everywhere this year. If you see them growing in your lawn, that's a bad thing: it means the soil is draining poorly. Rake and dispose of the mushrooms, then spike the area with a spading fork every day, if possible. Top dress the area where the mushrooms grew with organic compost and reseed.

If you keep a vegetable garden, avoid stepping on the soil if at all possible for the same reason -- to avoid compaction. If you absolutely, positively, have to walk through a garden bed, lay down 2 x 4s to spread the load across a larger area. The same holds true for flowerbeds.

Watch for Disease

Fungal diseases are going to be a major problem if the rain doesn't let up soon. Keep a sharp eye for signs of leaf drop on shrubs, especially rhaphiolepis. They are susceptible to a fungus disease called "shothole." It first appears as a tiny black spot on the leaves, then quickly spreads to defoliate even the most established plants.

Keep the fallen foliage from deciduous plants raked up, especially roses. Disease spores will splash back up onto the plant with rainfall. If the soil is clean under the plant, you have a better chance of avoiding the spread of fungi.

Container plants need to have their saucers removed so the pots can drain freely. If a container is especially large, prop up each side and place a block of wood under the pot to prevent it from sitting in water. I have used a blower to get rid of excess water in saucers. This method works well, but is noisy. Wait until your neighbors are awake prior to cranking up the blower.

If you built basins around your trees last summer, knock them down now.

Beware of Floodwaters

And most importantly, if your garden has been inundated with floodwater, don't eat anything, even root vegetables! It's possible that the overflow from the sewer drains has mingled with water from the storm drains and delivered the dreaded E-coli bacteria into your yard.

In the meantime, have faith. The sun will shine again!

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