Recapping the 2012 gardening year

Andrea Williams (left) and her sister Ginger Davis picked out impatiens at Sanderlin's Nursery in Appling in 2005. Downey mildew devastated impatiens in June.

Today’s column is my annual recap of the year in gardening.


I talked about the extreme fluctuations in temperature and how it affects plants in my second column for 2012. New Year’s Day (Sunday) was 73 degrees, but by Wednesday it was 20 degrees. Since our winter had been warmer than normal, many of our February blooming plants were already blooming that early. Plants such as Japanese Apricot, Okame Cherry, Japanese magnolia and forsythia.

My Feb. 10 column was about winter weeds and how they had grown faster and larger than normal because of the warm winter.

In early March, I wrote my annual column about take-all patch fungus in lawns, particularly in St. Augustine grass. Getting a soil test and optimally managing your fertility levels are among the best things to do to help your lawn overcome this problem.

Fire blight on trees, particularly Bradford and other callery pears, was bad again this spring and was the subject of my May 4 column. Branch tips appear as if they are scorched by fire and may be randomly distributed throughout the tree. Once trees get this, the only thing you can do is prune it out. I realize this is impossible for homeowners with large trees to do without hiring an arborist but by not cutting out the damaged branches, the odds are increased they will get the fire blight again next year.

The following week I warned you about kudzu bugs that are becoming more numerous and are a pest similar to lady beetles that like to come into our houses during the winter. At least lady beetles don’t stink. Kudzu bugs do since they are in the stink bug family. Kudzu bugs will also cause damage to any plant in the legume family so they are a pest in the garden on beans and peas.

It was a pretty bad spring for powdery mildew on crape myrtles. With this fungus, the young leaves at the end of the plant will have a white, powdery coating and they will be twisted or distorted. This affects the older crape myrtle varieties and not the new ones with Indian names. Once it shows up it is too late to use a fungicide for control.

On May 29, I got an alert that chinch bugs were already sighted in Augusta and they were the subject of my June 8 column. This was actually surprising because chinch bugs like hot dry weather. It had not been overly hot and we had gotten a normal amount of rainfall during May.

In my June 22 column, I wrote about the devastation we were seeing on one of our most beloved annual flowers – impatiens. A new disease, downy mildew was wiping them out left and right. What brought most of this on were a few rainy days with slightly cooler temperatures for a few days in a row. I asked for feedback from homeowners whose impatiens were infected by this disease and I bet I heard from over 75 people. What was interesting was that those plants that did survive this June problem, basically survived the rest of the summer. Only time will tell how it will affect plants this coming summer.

Even though it was a relatively mild summer, we were hit with three straight days of 106 degrees, June 29-July 1. Some nearby areas were even hotter. The Augusta Chronicle had a small article quoting the state climatologist as saying that South Carolina set a high-temperature record on June 29 with 113 degrees. The record was measured at the University of South Carolina.

Some of our turfgrass felt the biggest impact of this record-setting weather. Numerous lawns, particularly zoysia and St. Augustine, were burned in the hottest areas of the yard.

Most of us got a ton of rain during August. I got more than 13.5 inches at my house. Normal August rainfall is about 4 inches.

Because of all the rain, mushrooms were popping up everywhere in people’s yards. Nothing can be done to stop this. There was also more leaf spot disease on our trees and shrubs and more disease in the vegetable garden, particularly on tomatoes.

Just like clockwork, after August it began to turn dry. In September I got slightly more than 3 inches of rain, but not much after the middle of the month. Rainfall in October was almost nonexistent. From mid-September on until mid-December we were really in a drought. Fortunately we got good rains Dec. 12 and again on Dec. 16-17.

As usual, it never rains as much at Bush Field as it does most everywhere else, particularly at my house. According to the official statistics we were still running a 9.5-inch deficit as of Dec. 20, with annual rainfall at 32.84 inches for the year. The total at my house through the same date was over 47.5 inches. Above normal for the year. I guess I am living right. I hope you are, too.

Good luck gardening in 2013. Have a happy New Year!



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