Q: With all the rain (more than 11 inches for us) we have had the last week most of the vegetable plants that we had started out in the garden are turning yellow. Is there any solution for this or do we start over?
B. P. of Collinsville
A: Your solution is to build raised beds and the higher you build it the faster the water will drain and dry out but this will require more watering during dry periods of the summer. Usually a height of 8 to 12 inches works out great. You can build the side walls out of cinder blocks or bricks. If you want to use lumber, remember to not use treated lumber, which prevents rotting because some of the chemicals can leach out and possibly kill the plants or the vegetable plants could absorb some of these chemicals. Cypress lumber is preferred as it resists rotting and can hold up for a large number of years. If you cannot locate cypress, cedar and redwood will also help out if you prefer wood for your sides.
Plastic wood can also be used for sides of a raised bed and should last for a longer time than wooden sides.
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If you are planning to raise root crops in a raised bed, you will need to make the beds at least 24 inches in depth.
After you have figured out how large to make your raised bed, you will need to rototill the original soil that will be inside your raised bed. Then add about 3 inches of your new soil and rototill it again to mix your old soil with the new soil so that you do not form a perch water table, which will prevent drainage of water and prevent the uptake of water from the original soil as well. Some gardeners like to slope the raised bed slightly to a southern exposure, which will warm the soil a little earlier in spring for an earlier start.
When you add new soil you want to check it to make sure you are not adding new problems, such as introducing new diseases or insect problems. You will want to make a soil test of the additional soil as most of the roots will be growing in the new material and not the older soil.
Every year, you will need to add compost to the raised beds to add nutrients and the compost can also be a control for weed growth if applied thick enough.
You noticed the vegetable plants turning yellow (and also purple?) from all this rain. Do not waste your time trying to bring these vegetable plants back to health as this is no easy cure. But obtain some new vegetable plants and you can plant them into containers where you can control the rain with an umbrella as an older gardener told me their experience with severe rainy weather. If you only need a few vegetable plants, plant a few in a larger container. Then, if we have a monsoon season, just place an umbrella over the plants and the container, but anchor the umbrella down as long as you do not have too many containers.
Charles Giedeman is a local contributing writer. Send your gardening questions to Lifestyle Department, Belleville News-Democrat, P.O. Box 427, 120 S. Illinois St., Belleville, IL 62222-0427, or email them to email@example.com.