CO-Horts Blog

Monday, June 22, 2015

Mosquitoes and rainstorms and hail, oh, my!

Posted by Carol O'Meara, CSU Extension Boulder County

Just when you thought it was safe to go into the garden, Mother Nature pounds us with severe storms, hail, and tornadoes.  If that weren’t enough, the series of Seattle-like weather has given rise to the scourge of outdoor activity:  mosquitoes.
A gardener’s yard is filled with opportunities for mosquitoes to lay their eggs, since we have pots, buckets, saucers, bird baths, ponds, wheelbarrows, and other accessories stacked around the yard.  If you look at the list many of the health agencies have on common breeding areas, gardeners’ yards appear to be mother ships for these insects.

But there is something you can do to reduce the problem of mosquitoes:  change bird bath water twice per week; dump out water that collects in the dish beneath pots; turn over unused pots, saucers, trays and buckets; and use Bt doughnuts to float in your ponds or water features.  Bt, short for Bacillus thuringiensis, is a natural way to kill off the mosquito larvae in your water.
To protect yourself while working in the garden, cover up or use a mosquito repellent that’s effective against West Nile Virus-carrying mosquitoes. Check with your local health department for suggested repellents. 

Though the gardens love the wet weather, one thing they could do without is the hail that came with it.  If your plants were victims of the savage skies, take heart: it looks bad now but, depending on the plant, its maturity, and time left in the season for recovery, all may not be lost.
Vegetable root crops, such as potatoes or beets, with destroyed leaves could send up new shoots, compromising quality of the crop. In this case the produce may not be worth the growing space.  For leafy vegetables, be patient:  give them at least a week to recuperate after the storm, and if there’s no sign of life, replant.

Flowering annuals stripped of their leaves may not survive, and replanting now will ensure a good display later in summer.  Yes, it’s hard to pull up those babies, so if there are a few bits left on the stem and you’re feeling nurturing, clean them up and a give them a light application of fertilizer.  They might recover.
Severely shredded leaves on smaller perennials should be cut back to the ground, and if the leaves aren’t too damaged, leave them alone.  Bleeding hearts and other perennials with soft stems that look reasonably unharmed should be cut back part way. Generally they'll sprout new leaves along the stem at the junction between the old leaves and the stem.

Work fertilizer in around any damaged perennials that are well established to give them a boost for recovery.  Those with firm stalks should be cut partially back.  If they don't sprout new leaves on existing stems, look for new stems pushing up from their roots.  
Trees and shrubs not pushing new leaves need to be closely monitored; it’s possible they fell victim to the sudden polar plunge we had last November.  Wait until June is almost over before deciding if the plant won’t bounce back from the damage of the freeze.  Examine your woody plants for wounds in the bark or torn limbs; clean up the wound site with a sharp knife and let the plant heal itself. 

Our gardens will recover after this weather, and soon we can relax, enjoying what the dry heat brings:  scorch, blossom drop, and sunburn.

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