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A wet, cool year isn’t all good news for gardens

If you’ve read my articles over the years, you may have noticed that our climate and/or environment tend to be pretty common topics.

But really, as gardeners, or farmers, or landowners, so much of our success is based on if Mother Nature is nice or naughty, or how we adjust for her naughtiness without making her more upset.

2019 is a nice year in many ways, but we are dealing with the consequences of that kindness. Yes, snowpack was amazing this winter and spring. Snow is still melting, rivers and creeks are still running high and reservoirs are filling up.

But along with all that moisture came a relatively cool and wet spring and early summer. The high temperatures in May were 7 degrees cooler than normal; in June, they were 4 degrees cooler. Many of you experienced a frost (or even a freeze) on June 23. During the last week of June, we had an average daily temperature difference of 36 degrees. So after a couple cold nights, our tender annuals and vegetables that survived the frost have had a tough time getting going again.

You know what else came with all this winter and spring moisture, cooler than normal temperatures and higher than normal relative humidity? Telephone calls, emails, samples, site visits and photos.

If you like plant diseases, insects (and I do) and weeds (I don’t), well, 2019 is your year. We started with carpets of purple mustard that blanketed our fields and then moved on to that relatively rare, and eventually annoying, mountain cicada. They do little or no harm to your plants even though they are one of the larger insects you will find in Colorado. Apparently, they emerge every three to five years, however, this is the first time I remember seeing them – and I’m old. What we are hearing are males trying to attract females.

Aphids and thrips have also been impressive this year. While aphids are not uncommon in our annuals, perennials and trees, thrips in the garden (and not just in the annuals that come from greenhouses) are relatively rare and, unfortunately, tough to control. Try insecticidal soaps – or a jet stream of water from the hose – to keep numbers down. Just know that both insects lay a lot of eggs and can also use a form of asexual reproduction called parthenogenesis in which an adult female can lay an unfertilized egg to develop into a genetically identical female offspring.

Because of our low relative humidity and the fact that we have a cold winter, fungus and bacteria are typically not an issue. But guess what? Not this year. I’ve seen bacterial blight on tomatoes, peppers and even landscape ornamentals. Cedar-apple rust showed up as orange globs in the junipers this spring and can potentially harm our apples, pears, hawthorns and other plants in the rose family. When you see those gelatinous masses in the trees, prune them out and stop the cycle.

And lastly, and probably most impressively, I just got a photo of slime mold, which was awesome. Also known as “dog vomit fungus,” this mass (about 1-foot wide and 1-foot tall) probably formed where there was a lot of moisture. It doesn’t cause any problems, but it sure is attractive to kids with sticks or adults with weed wackers. Or so I’m told.

Darrin Parmenter is the director and horticulture agent of the La Plata County Extension Office. Reach him at darrin.parmenter@co.laplata.co.us or 382-6464.

Darrin Parmenter