Ways to Save a Wet Garden–Hudson Valley Seed Library

September 7, 2011

Ways to Save a Wet Garden    http://www.seedlibrary.org/

Alright–who invited Irene to the garden party? She’s a lousy gardener–always
overwatering everything!–and so is her cousin Lee.

Have these tropical visitors got you down? We understand. They’ve wrought
havoc!

Here’s a little perspective. The average August rainfall for the Hudson
Valley is around 3.5-4 inches. In the past 10 days the region has seen 11-15
inches. Since August 1st, the region has seen 18-22 inches of rain. That’s
almost half our YEARLY average, all in about 35 days! Most of the region has
already exceeded its average annual rainfall for the year with four months or
potential precipitation left to go.

Before and AfterBefore and After

Due to this extreme rainfall, and the winds that came with Irene, our farm,
and many other farms and gardens, went from being almost at their peak in terms
of beauty and production–to a sodden, floppy, ripped up mess. Our corn patch was
flattened, the sunflower stalks snapped, the pepper plants fell over, the
pollination tunnels blew off, the soil turned to jello, the pole beans were
knocked over, the soybeans started to break apart at the joints,  and all sorts
of seed and pods that should have been enjoying the dry breezes of late summer
were soaked. This latest bout of rain (5 inches in the past three days!) has put
the nail in the coffin of many of our tomato plants and produced another round
of “water balloon” peppers. It’s been depressing to see much of the hard work of
the season turned to soggy rags.

But plants are resilient, and I think gardeners are, too. We pulled up the
corn stalks and hung them to dry in the hoophouse, righted-up the leaning
peppers, harvested everything we could, and generally did what we could to help
surviving plants catch their breath and keep on growing. It will be interesting
to see which varieties are most skilled at surviving saturation and we are
confident we still have enough local seed to keep the Seed Library thriving.

Here are some tips for how to safely wade through your plot and rescue some
of your soggy bounty.

1. Harvest. If the plants are dead or dying, harvest. Tomatoes will
ripen-up indoors on a windowsill or counter. Green peppers are edible and almost
red ones will ripen more after they are picked. Carrots can be pulled up and
kept in the fridge. Winter squash can be harvested and brought in to cure. (One
exception: The USDA recommends NOT eating any plants that were flooded by a
waterway such as a stream or river due to potential contaminants in the
water.)

2. Tread lightly. Wet soil is easily compacted, so stick to well worn paths
and be extra careful to avoid walking in planting beds.

3. Stake. If your plants are still alive but have fallen over, carefully
stake and tie them up so they can recover. It’s often best to wait for the soil
to dry out just a bit before doing this, as saturated plant tissue turns the
plants brittle.

4. Breathe. This is gardening. Every year presents new challenges. Save what
you can and compost the rest. Keep on sowing–perhaps we’ll have a long, warm fall or a mild
winter.

Visit our website for photos and more tips on fall growing.

http://www.seedlibrary.org/

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