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How to troubleshoot home gardening during wet and buggy months, and tips for fall

Mold grows on the ground near red and purple flowers
Tedra Meyer
Vermont Public
Heavy rains caused mold and weeds to grow.

Cloudy days, rainy weeks and plenty of bugs may be getting to your garden this year. For some plants, the unusual weather this summer is a good thing. But for a lot of home gardens, this weather may have left you with some sad flowers, missing vegetable sprouts and lots of questions.

All Things Gardening host Charlie Nardozzi answered listener questions and provided tips and tricks to approaching wet gardens, bugs and fall crops.

Flood waters and home gardens

The big hit to home gardens across the state this summer was, of course, the unprecedented rains that caused catastrophic flooding. If your garden was lucky enough to survive the damage, it may still need some help to navigate the changes and pull through.

If your garden was hit with flood waters this summer, the first thing to do is a soil test. Nardozzi recommended sending in a soil sample to get checked for contamination. The University of Vermont Agricultural and Environmental Testing Lab accepts mail-in samples. Heavy metals can be deposited in soils through flood water, along with other contaminants. If the soil comes back with good test results, it's safe to plant for the rest of the season (and it's not too late!).

But just because there isn't contamination from flood waters doesn't mean your soil won't need some extra help.

"What the flood water does is it pushes the oxygen out of the soil," Nardozzi said.

Roots need to pull that oxygen in for growth. A good way to visually spot low-oxygenated soil is yellow leaves. This is where soil remediation can help, with the use of compost or fertilizers. Another option is to use an iron probe in the soil.

And for crops that came in contact with flood waters, not all of them are a lost cause.

"Any plant that has been touched by the flood waters, you should not eat that ... they could be contaminated," Nardozzi said. However, "anything formed after the flood waters recede ... will be OK."

Things like berries or tomatoes — things that do not grow under the soil — can be OK if they form after flood waters recede. And some shrubs, trees and flowers may fair with the higher water levels.

And if your soil isn't ready to be re-planted, it doesn't mean your planting has to be done for the year.

"I'm fan of raised beds," Nardozzi said. There's less risk of low oxygen levels, root damage from bad water drainage and soil contamination from flooding.

Rain, clouds and bugs

If your garden was spared from flood water contamination, you still might be seeing some changes. Plants that normally thrived in home gardens in previous years are seeing little to no production this year. Nardozzi said it could be from a few things: cloudy days, high rains saturating soil and the freeze from earlier this year.

The May freeze this year threatened a lot of crop damage statewide. For home gardeners, Nardozzi said any flowering plant — think flowers, fruit trees and more — may have been damaged, and many home gardeners won't know the full extent of damage until next year.

And as for the clouds, they may have scared off your flowers, Nardozzi said.

"They will get shy blooming if there isn't enough sun."

But the good news is, shade-loving flowers are loving this summer.

Excess water is another big problem this summer. If water isn't given the right opportunities to drain, it can cause root damage, bugs and even fungal diseases.

This excess water, especially when it creates standing water like small puddles in your garden, is also bringing in extra mosquitoes to Vermont this summer. And while Nardozzi said overall there may not be more bugs this summer, your garden is going to be more susceptible to bug-caused damage if they're weak from other problems.

Nardozzi said it's important to jump in now to prevent further damage. Rake up fallen leaves, redirect water with drainage options like moats and try to clear out any bugs in the area.

Fall planting

"It's not too late to plant," Nardozzi said.

Plenty of crops flourish this time of year in Vermont. Nardozzi said to look at short-season varieties that will produce before frost kicks in.

Things like bush beans can be good choices in warmer areas like the Champlain Valley. And heartier options like broccoli, cabbage and kale will take a frost and be OK. It's a good time for root crops, too, because the ground will stay warmer than the air.

Nardozzi also recommended floating row covers for fall crops. Floating row covers are a cheesecloth-like fabric that cover your crops, keeping insects, animals and weather out. They come in different weights for more or less protection.

Have questions, comments or tips? Send us a message.

Mikaela Lefrak is the host and senior producer of Vermont Edition. Her stories have aired nationally on Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Weekend Edition, Marketplace, The World and Here & Now. A seasoned local reporter, Mikaela has won two regional Edward R. Murrow awards and a Public Media Journalists Association award for her work.
Tedra worked on Vermont Edition as a producer and editor from 2022 to 2024.