2013: A Gardening Year to Forget

By Jim Janke | Dec 30, 2013

Rain, Rain Go Away

Come Again Another Day

Waynesville averages a little over 47 inches of precipitation each year (NOAA data from 1948-2011). In 2013 we exceeded this number by the middle of July, and  finished the year more than 25 inches over average, shattering the previous precipitation record. All this water took a huge toll on local gardens. Here’s what happened at our place.

Rot was everywhere. Bush beans germinated poorly. The garlic crop was terrible both in quantity and quality, and shallots were a disaster.   A couple of established chive plants simply disappeared. Basil transplants rotted at the soil line. Caladiums started indoors were gorgeous, but all the stems collapsed shortly after planting outside.

There was a fungus amungus. Late blight wiped out tomato plants before anything ripened, unless a preventative spray program was in place. Squash prospered at first, but then powdery mildew took over. Dahlias had to be treated frequently to avoid fungus and insect issues. Our doghobble (leucothoe) hedge looked horrible even though it was sprayed with fungicide regularly.

Vegetables and herbs suffered from not enough sunshine. Lettuce grew slowly, and refused to head. Any tomatoes that survived the blight ripened later than normal, and even the best fruit tasted watery. Bush green beans didn’t have their usual fresh flavor. Basil got scraggly quickly, reaching for sunlight that wasn’t there. Parsley is biennial, setting seed the second year; in 2013 seed heads appeared on first year plants, as if they were in a hurry to exit the premises.

Flowers had problems as well. Everblooming daylilies put on a spectacular display in June, but nary a bloom thereafter. Soil from that bed tested normal, however. Purple Wave® petunias in the ground were attacked by thrips and suffered from chlorosis. Snapdragons were late to flower. The plant clinic had many reports of aphids on KnockOut® roses that normally are pest free.

Even things not related to the weather went haywire. Three new phlox plants in the patio garden turned out to be groundhog delicacies. Grafted tomato plants were ordered for side-by-side comparisons with identical varieties grown from seed, but when the package arrived most of the plants were dead, and replacements weren’t available. So much for that experiment. Normally ladybeetles start entering the house in early September, but we didn’t see a one until late October. Perhaps they ate so many aphids that they couldn’t fly. Stinkbugs, however, were numerous enough for us to get out the vacuum several times.

A few plants did well. Beets grew beautifully and produced more than we could use. We had a huge crop of a new purple French filet bean (‘Valour’). The pepper crop was late but heavy with large, crisp red and yellow bells into the middle of October. Tidal Wave Silver petunias in containers performed beautifully. All 9 varieties of hydrangeas thrived, as did most other flowering shrubs. Ornamental grasses grew like gangbusters.

And the guys who cut my lawn were very, very happy. We certainly $aw them often enough.

I used to go out on our deck when it was pouring and mutter “I love rain!” because I wouldn’t have to water my garden for a few days. 2013 cured me of that habit.

Jim Janke is an Extension Master Gardener Volunteer in Haywood County. For more information call the Haywood County Extension Center at 828-456-3575. © 2014 NC State University.