Much produce, plants have had too much to drink

COVINGTON -- Heavy rainfall this summer has resulted in saturated yards and gardens that can be havens for disease and waterlogged plants.

"We're getting lots and lots of calls from people concerned there are fungal and bacterial diseases in their yards," said Newton County Extension coordinator Ted Wynne.

In lawns, the symptoms of a disease can be an area of discoloration as small as a spot or as large as 6 to 8 feet wide. Diseased plants often turn yellow or suddenly start wilting.

Wynne recommends that people who are concerned their plants are diseased should bring samples of those plants to him so he can make a diagnosis and recommend the proper treatment.

"That's what we're here for," he said.

Instances of bacteria and fungus in gardens and plants are increasing primarily because gardens and lawns have not had a chance to dry out. Wynne said when plants and leaves have more than 14 hours a day of moisture, it increases the chance of disease.

Jule-Lynne Macie, extension coordinator for Rockdale County, explained that all roots need moisture and oxygen, but when the ground is so saturated with water, there's not as much room for oxygen. In other words, she said, plants can drown.

Typically, drowning or diseased plants will still look healthy although their roots are rotting below the surface.

Trees can be in danger of falling if the soil gets waterlogged and the root structure is not strong enough to support a top-heavy tree.

"My recommendation is if someone is concerned about a tree on their property that they have a hazard tree assessment done by a certified arborist," Macie said, suggesting people refer to the International Society of Arboriculture for reputable arborists. "Be wary of people driving around and soliciting your business. They are probably not certified and probably have no insurance."

Macie said the heavy rains have also put pressure on vegetable crops this year. She said most vegetables are coming in later this year because people couldn't plant as early as normal due to wet soil. She said that produce, such as tomatoes, watermelons and cantaloupes, are also struggling due to heavy rains.

"If these plants get too much water, the fruit cracks and splits," she said, so she recommended picking those fruits when they are almost ripe because they can fill with water very quickly.

While there is little that can be done once a plant has developed a disease, Wynne said adhering to long-term maintenance plans is key for withstanding variations in weather patterns from year to year.

He said management techniques are available through the University of Georgia's Cooperative Extension, found online at http://extension.uga.edu.