”The way I see it, if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain.” 

The unpredictable nature of rain has caused a few heartaches lately in rural areas where crops almost ready for harvest have been decimated from excess water. In the garden too, rain has been both a blessing and a curse. After the brilliant start of Spring this year, the roses have been ravaged by wind and heavy rain for several weeks. The sun is out for a spell at last and the clouds have gone but I will never complain about the extra rain because the alternative is even worse. The drought of a few years ago is still too fresh in my mind. The old proverb says it so well – “it never rains but pours,” and nothing could be more accurate.

For several weeks I have had to be away from the garden but the bright side is it has rained almost every day so no need to organise watering. The water table beneath the soil is full, which will help through the dry months of January and February. And my winter plant moves, and new roses will love the extra nitrogen from the rainfall to help them become established in the ground and pots. But can we have too much of a good thing?

“Despite the gardener’s best intentions, Nature will improvise. ”

Michael P Garofalo

Gardening is not for the faint-hearted and will always bring challenges. Although I had not bargained on the extremes of dust, drought, floods and heavy rain, not to mention the severe bushfires of last summer in Australia. At times gardening can be disappointing for sure but on the other hand, it is a good way to develop perseverance and an ability to roll with the punches? A necessary life skill at times.

“A garden is always a series of losses set against a few triumphs, like life itself. ”

May Sarton

Why is too much rain bad for roses? Heavy rain, hail and strong winds can break stems especially the standard roses, damage foliage, and destroy the rose blooms that may ball or rot before opening. Heavy rain will wash away mulch and fertiliser in the garden. Less oxygen reaches the plants when the soil cannot drain properly and the saturated soggy ground increases the risk of weakened plants that are more susceptible to disease.

At this time of year, there is a risk that summer humidity and constant rain will also create perfect conditions for fungal infections on roses like Black Spot and Powdery Mildew. There is always something in nature, isn’t there; if it’s too dry, we get spider mites, and we get blackspot if too wet?

The most important thing after the rain stops is to have a really good look to check on any damaged, diseased or fallen branches and debris in the garden. Have a tidy up and prune any plants that have fallen, broken from the weight of roses blooms and heavy rain. Remove damaged blooms, rotting unopened flowers and anything that has gone mouldy plus a good dead head of spent blooms.

“The garden suggests there might be a place where we can meet nature halfway.”

Michael Pollan

I love the sound of rain on the roof and the chance to get more work done inside when it is raining out, but lately, we have had nothing else. The problem is weeds love the rain too, and every dormant seed has a golden opportunity to sprout, grow and take over.

Rain-soaked roses

No matter what style of smart gumboots you own, walking on the wet garden bed to weed in the damp is not worth the damage you create even though it is far easier to pull weeds when wet. Walking and compacting the soil destroys the structure, so it’s best to leave weeds alone until the rain has stopped and the ground dries out. It is far too wet to mow the grass or whipper snip the edges, and so the lawn creeps into the garden too. When seriously wet, pots or containers can become too full of water which can cause the roots to rot, especially if the pots do not drain properly and the plants are sitting in water- often called wet feet. Roses like many plants – lavenders, pelargoniums, perennials do not like wet feet.

This is one of the main reasons plants do not survive our good intentions. The lack of oxygen in the soil around the roots when the soil is too wet or waterlogged for more than a day will damage or kill plants. The organic material begins to decompose and use up all the oxygen. The stale soil will smell and the leaves will be discoloured before it dies. Even well-drained pots at times can become waterlogged in heavy rain so best to keep an eye out for overly full pots.

After we all have endured life restricted indoors and at home with lockdowns, Summer had the promise of blue skies, beach weather and our usual outdoor lifestyle. It seems this is not to be this year, unfortunately, as more wet weather is predicted by meteorologists for the months of December, January and February.

 You may have heard the terms; La Niña and El Nino and wondered what the heck they are? Evidently, these events are the cause of the extreme weather; dust storms and drought or rain and floods? La Niña is the current weather event causing higher than usual rainfall as explained by BOM

El Niño and La Niña events are a natural part of the global climate system. They occur when the Pacific Ocean and the atmosphere above it change from their neutral (‘normal’) state for several seasons. El Niño events are associated with a warming of the central and eastern tropical Pacific, while La Niña events are the reverse, with a sustained cooling of these same areas.

http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/enso/history/ln-2010-12/ENSO-what.shtml

Along with the current La Niña event is the Negative Indian Ocean Dipole or IOD that together influence our weather or climate.

‘Westerly winds intensify along the equator, allowing warmer waters to concentrate near Australia. This sets up a temperature difference across the tropical Indian Ocean, with warmer than normal water in the east and cooler than normal water in the west.

A negative IOD typically results in above-average winter–spring rainfall over parts of southern Australia as the warmer waters off northwest Australia provide more available moisture to weather systems crossing the country.’

http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/iod/

El Niño is the opposite of La Niña and occurs when winds around the tropical Pacific weaken or even reverse, which means Australia doesn’t get its usual share of warm water or rain. For most of our driest and hottest years, we have had an El Niño event. Evidently, these events happen every 5-7 years and the weather experts are never really sure when one is due but the local farmers always say that a flood always follows a drought.

One thing for sure is we can never fully predict the weather. This year, the garden is flourishing, and although rain damages the rose blooms underneath, the extra water and nourishment are perfect for the garden’s expansion.

“I grow plants for many reasons: to please my eye or to please my soul, to challenge the elements or to challenge my patience, for novelty or for nostalgia, but mostly for the joy in seeing them grow.”

David Hobson


Content Di Baker 2021

Images in order

Title image and the first 7 Images by Di Baker at Carla Fineschi Rose Garden, Cavariglia Italy 2019

Last 4 images courtesy of Unsplash

Title quote by Dolly Parton

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