OGDEN -- Hold the chips. Your backyard salsa garden won't be producing until later than usual in this weird weather season.
The cool, wet spring hasn't hurt cold-weather crops, such as peas and cabbage. But warm-weather plants like tomatoes and peppers sit stunted and semi-dormant, waiting for nature to turn up the heat.
"I think we are two or three weeks later than last year, and last year was also behind," said Dori Jones, Utah State University extension agent and manager of the Ogden Botanical Gardens. "So I think we are probably three to four weeks behind a normal year."
Jones has fielded countless calls from concerned home gardeners on vegetable-related topics, including delayed plant growth and seeds that don't grow, and on landscape plant issues, like dead rose bushes and thriving diseases. Here are some of the top topics, with her comments:
Home gardeners who trusted the usual suggested planting dates may have seen their pepper plants lose leaves to frost and their tomato plants pummelled with pellets of hail.
"I know I'll be getting phone calls in mid-July, asking why we don't have tomatoes yet," Jones said.
Warm weather vegetables are waiting for heat before they get established and have energy for reproduction.
"We are just behind," Jones said. "Peppers and tomatoes won't be as plentiful as they've probably been in years past, but around August and September we should get a good crop. We just have to be patient, very patient."
People who haven't put in tomato plants yet may want to consider a shorter-season variety, Jones said.
And for those people who didn't plant cool-season plants like lettuce, peas, radishes and broccoli because of the bad weather this spring, or who planted seeds that rotted in wet soil without germinating, Jones suggests a fall planting to make up the difference. Cool-weather crops can be planted in late August for a late season harvest, she said.
Other common calls have been about landscape plants such as roses. At least some of the rose problems were sparked by strange weather two seasons back.
"We've had a lot of questions about rose bushes that died this spring, and it's because of the cold temperatures last fall," Jones said.
Warm weather lingered until about Thanksgiving, and rose bushes did not go into their usual fall dormancy. When a cold snap hit in late November, plants weren't prepared to survive it.
"We lost a lot of our own roses this year," Jones said. "One is doing completely fine, out of 300. We are hoping 20 percent will come back, but we probably lost more than 70 percent of our roses."
For people who plan to replace rose bushes, Jones suggests planting in protected micro-climates.
"If located near a house, in a more protected area, roses will do better than those out in the open," she said. "You can also find varieties that are a little more cold-hardy, that grow on their own root stock, that will be more hardy in cold temperatures."
A good mail-order source, based in Canada, is www.highcountryroses.com, Jones said.
The botanical gardens also suffered damage to some of its evergreens, also caused by fall's fast freeze. Despite browning of leaves and needles, Jones expects most of her specimens to survive, and most home gardeners can expect a good survival rate as well, she said.
Trees and shrubs
Also causing problems for home gardeners is fungus, which thrives in wet weather.
"People have been calling about flowering pear trees, because the tips are dead, and the leaves have turned back," Jones said. "That's a bacterial disease, fire blight, which is spread by water. It thrives in cool temperatures."
Apple trees and fruiting pear trees also are susceptible, she said. The time to treat fire blight has passed until next spring when blossoms appear. Garden stores can suggest the best anti-bacterial sprays, which you should apply in March or April.
Until then, Jones suggests removing dead branch tips and leaves, if possible. If new growth is present, the tree is still fighting. If your tree does not recover, Jones suggests replacing it with a more disease-resistant variety. In the case of ornamental pears, Jones suggests choosing a different tree variety.
"There are many other shade threes, and other trees are more resistant," she said.
Ogden Botanical Gardens takes call-in questions from 12:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays.
On Wednesdays, a diagnostic clinic runs from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the gardens, 1750 Monroe Ave., Ogden. Bring plant or insect samples for diagnosis. The Garden's websites are http://extension.usu.edu/weber/htm/horticulture or http://ogdenbotanicalgardens.blogspot.com.