The wet/dry summer dilemma

Pamela Corle-Bennett is the state master gardener volunteer coordinator and horticulture educator for Ohio State University Extension. Contact her by email at

Until late this week, I couldn’t believe that it had turned dry so suddenly lately. And I can’t believe that summer is almost over. This has been an interesting growing season for gardeners. It’s been good on one hand and a challenge on the other.

Earlier in the season we had perfect rainfall for vegetables and other plants. Until the past fews days, it was absent at the most critical time in the vegetable garden and for fruit production.

Even soil moisture is critical at the time of fruit development. Many of our garden vegetables are very high in water content. For instance, tomatoes are 94 percent water and peppers are 92 percent water. Therefore, they require water in order for the fruit to fill out nicely.

What normally occurs this time of the year is a dry spell, and people don’t keep the soil moist at the time of fruit ripening. When we do get a sudden rainfall or downpour, the water is absorbed into the plant so quickly that is causes splitting of the fruit.

The plant cells absorb water and grow so suddenly that the skin of the fruit can’t keep up. The fruits are still OK to eat if they have split, but they aren’t as appealing. In addition, if they aren’t harvested immediately, they will begin to rot.

It’s taken a long time for tomatoes to ripen. There are lots of them on vines that look pretty ragged, due to septoria leaf spot. If I can just get the majority ripened, I can make salsa and can some tomatoes for the winter.

The bottom line is that when it gets dry, and your garden is not getting some of the spotty rains that occur this time of year, you need to provide water.

Another common garden disease showing up is powdery mildew on cucumbers, pumpkins and squash. Once you see the symptoms of this disease (whitish color on the foliage) it’s too late to do anything. Just hope they keep going for a little while longer.

If you want to enjoy fresh lettuce and spinach from the garden up until Thanksgiving or longer, plant the seeds right now. Don’t forget to water them in order to get them germinated.

Discontinue fertilizing perennials and roses at this time. Soon they will be heading into dormancy, and you don’t want to push growth at this time.

If you haven’t already done so, it’s time to order your fall bulbs to be planted for spring bloom. There are many online resources for bulbs as well as garden centers that carry them in stock at this time. The best time to plant these is late September and early October.