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Tomatoes are off to a slow start this year, but gaining. Photo: Martha Foley
Tomatoes are off to a slow start this year, but gaining. Photo: Martha Foley

Rain, rain go away (for now)

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Rainy weather continues. Besides leading to dangerous flooding in many parts of New York State, the wet weather is having its way with gardeners and farmers as well.

The Burlington Free Press reports local strawberries are suffering, and the season is shorter, with smaller berries.

Other crops that need warmer weather, and more sun, are still behind. Cooperative Extension horticulturist Amy Ivy sorts through the pros and cons with Martha Foley.

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Reported by

Martha Foley
News and Public Affairs Director


As the rainy spring and summer season continues, gardeners are still experiencing problems that would normally happen earlier in the season. In particular, cutworms are making an unwanted appearance in gardens. There are lots of different kinds of cutworms that tend to be a problem when the plants are young. Once the plant gets past a certain stage, the stem becomes tough and the cutworm will not cut through it.

Cutworms wrap themselves around the base of the stem and cuts off the plant at the soil line. Similarly, rabbits cut off the plants at the soil line; however, the rabbit would eat the plant. That's one way to tell if you have cutworms. Another way to tell is if you dig around with your fingertips an inch or so in that area. Usually you'll find the cutworm in the soil.

Cutworms look like very fat caterpillars and often curl up into a very tight "c" shape. Unfortunately there is not a lot one can do about cutworms in the garden. You can protect the plant by wrapping the stem with newspaper and that protects the insect from being able to chew through it. The newspaper should extend below the soil line and above so you are protecting the whole stem. Insecticides are another option, and can be applied to the base of the plant. However, when using insecticides it's important, whether it's an organic product or not, to make sure the crop and the pest you want to use it for is on the label.

Plants such as tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants prefer the cooler weather during the nights. Helps bring on the color and the ripening. The nights aren't getting as cold as they used to. What they would prefer is if the temperature would get into 50-60 at night and warm during the day. This really helps bring on the ripening of tomatoes.

In this very wet weather, some people are having trouble with their lettuce rotting at the base. Similarly, tomatoes and eggplants can be problematic.

When (and if!) dry weather returns, plants will be in shock. Often after a rainy spell people just assume the plants don't need water when they may be quite stressed for water. We're just going to have to really watch our plants and pamper them more than ever this year.

When it comes to flowers, if you're thinking about pruning, it's important to remember what will grow back next year and what will not. If you prune a shrub, such as a Hydrangea, it will not return next year. However, if you prune a perennial, the leaves will return. Pruning the lower branches so that they are bare stems below may be an option. This tends to be more attractive in the flower garden. Furthermore, it gives that air circulation down low where the perennials are. It's a long-term decision because what you prune may still be there next year.


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