1. Life & Culture

Rain tips for gardeners

Published Jan. 23, 2014

I have this theory that gardeners were the kids who rocked at playing outdoors. We were the ones who climbed the trees, hung the tree swings, dug the holes and made the best forts. Gardening, more than anything, is about being outside, and we're the ones who can't quite give up making those mud pies.

Rainy days are the best. There is so much to do when it rains instead of sitting inside. The tomato soup and those floaty crackers taste even better after a few hours in the brisk outdoors. Here are some things to do besides splashing around in the puddles in your new pair of Wellies:

Drag the houseplants outside. Rain is an opportunity to wash the tap water salts out of your houseplants and give them a perky start for the new year. Put them under a corner of your eaves and really soak the larger pots. Be sure to drain the catch tray under the pots before you bring them back inside.

Collect rainwater. If you have a rain barrel installed outside your home, that's even better for collecting rainwater that can be used later on orchids, carnivorous plants and houseplants. If you don't have a rain barrel, put a bucket or two under your downspouts and collect as much as you can to water your delicate plants through the season.

Look for snails. I like to walk around with a sealable plastic bag and collect as many as I can find. They don't hide on rainy days and you can find bunches right out in the open. If snails are scattered on the lawn, I just stomp them with my rubber boots. Once the bag is full, zip it closed and throw it in the trash.

Look for slugs. Slugs are a bit creepier to pick up since they don't have handles like hard-shelled snails. You can use chopsticks, or just cut them in half with a pair of garden scissors.

Check your rain gauge. I like to compare my rain totals to the totals in other regions, since every area receives varying amounts.

Weed. Rainy days are the best for pulling deep-rooted weeds. If the soil has been moist for a few days, you won't even need tools to pull up entire weeds. I just throw them on the lawn where they will wilt as soon as the sun pops out and get mowed up when the crew arrives.

Scatter seeds such as wildflower and lettuce. These can be sprinkled across the top of the soil and will germinate quickly while the soil is saturated.

Check runoff. If too much water is running down your driveway and into the storm drain, think about redirecting the rain to a place on your property where it can soak into the soil. A low depression lined with rocks, called a rain garden, is a good place to put plants that like a lot of water around their roots.

Clean out your bird feeders. Soaked birdseed is bad news, quickly breeding harmful fungi and bacteria. Dump out wet seed, wash your feeders thoroughly and put them outside again when the sun is shining.


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