, Newburyport, MA

May 29, 2013

Rain brings fungus diseases

Tim's Tips
Tim Lamprey

---- — Memorial Day weekend wasn’t exactly what you might call perfect planting weather.

But the weather is warming up, and there is still a lot of time to get the vegetables planted and those flower boxes filled.

For years, I have been telling my customers that you shouldn’t be planting basil, cucumbers, eggplant and zinnias until the very last days of May into early June. These plants need very warm soil and warm weather, and so often we don’t get those conditions until late May or even early June. So plant on, gardeners!

Whenever we have a late May with as many consecutive days of rain and cold as we had this year, fungus diseases will pop up on many of your plants. Lawns will develop a disease called red thread. Your rose bushes will develop black spot. Tall phlox will develop powdery mildew. The list could go on and on.

You need to be proactive and treat your plants with a fungicide as soon as you see the first sign of a disease. If you are not sure if your plants have a problem, take a few samples of the leaves, place them in a sealed plastic bag and bring the sample to a garden center. Please put the samples into a sealed bag. If you bring the samples unwrapped, you might spread diseases to other plants.

Insects will also have had a field day attacking your plants. Many of the natural predators that feed on the bad bugs have been lying low in all the cool and wet weather. Take a few moments to check your plants for signs of insects and treat those infested plants as soon as possible.

If you have plants that have been outside in the rainy weather, the rain will have washed away a lot of the nutrients that were in the soil. As soon as you can, mix up some liquid fertilizer and fertilize those window boxes, hanging baskets and any of those newly transplanted annuals, perennials and vegetable plants.

If you fertilized your lawn in early April, now is the time to fertilize your lawn again. There is plenty of moisture in the ground, and your lawn will be using that moisture to aid in putting out new growth. Along with that moisture, your lawn will need fertilizer to successfully put out all that new growth. If you haven’t fertilized your lawn in eight weeks or more, now is the time.

Well, that’s all for this week. I’ll talk to you again next week.


Tim Lamprey is the owner of Harbor Garden Center on Route 1 in Salisbury. His website is Do you have questions for Tim? Send them to, and he will answer them in upcoming columns.