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Wet weather is washout for gardeners

You don’t have to tell a gardener it’s wet. They’ve noticed.

“The weeds are growing but the garden’s not doing so well,” said Shirley Bennett of Fredericktown. She was shopping at Lowe’s Tuesday, looking for some more sweet potatoes to plant. About half of hers didn’t come up due to all the wet weather.

She and her husband Jerry plant a big garden every year with tomatoes, green beans, Irish potatoes and more. They planted everything earlier in the spring, but had to plant it again when the rows were washed into each other. Now the weeds are threatening to take over.

“The mud is so deep right now we can’t get in there,” Jerry said.

Many a fence row is going uncleaned at his property, said Al Sullivan, also at Lowe’s Tuesday. He has a number of downed trees he wants to take care of, but it’s been too wet to get at them yet. He said area farmers are having a lot of trouble putting up hay and planting crops.

But he isn’t going to complain about the rain in spite of that. “An old-timer once pointed out to me you can grow more hay in a small wet square than you can in a whole field that’s dusty and dry,” he said.

The wet weather is not just affecting farmers and gardeners. The County Road and Bridge crews are going back to clean storm debris from culverts and drainage ditches again and again. It’s also put a damper on paving projects. “We’re waiting for a break in the weather,” said Dave Dettmer, with the Road and Bridge crew.

Dettmer said water has receded from most low-water bridges. However, people should use caution if they come across any with water over them as the rainy weather continues. The depth and force of water running over a low-water bridge can be deceptive, and people have been swept to their deaths attempting to cross one.

State health department officials were also reminding people to dump out containers that might have become filled with water to keep mosquitos from breeding in them. Mosquitos are carriers for West Nile virus.

Gary Cleve, with the Farm Service Agency, said the area already has 50 percent of its normal annual rainfall on the books as of May. That leaves seven months to go, and likely more rain to come.

“For May we had 151 percent of normal rainfall and for April we had 155 percent of normal,” he said. “We are above our 30-year average in our rainfall. The topsoil and subsoil are saturated.”

The rain has helped farmers grow some pretty good grass and forage hay crops, but harvesting it in a timely fashion has been impossible for many, Cleve said. It takes a three-day window of dry weather to properly harvest hay, and the weather just isn’t cooperating.

“The quantity of hay seems good,” Cleve said, “but the quality may not be as good.”

It has also been difficult to get crops planted in time. The deadline for corn for insurance purposes is June 5 and that is now past. The deadline for soybeans is coming up June 20.

“Everything is way behind in all four of the counties I work in,” Cleve said. His counties are St. Francois, Iron, Washington and Jefferson.

More rain is probably still ahead. Benjamin Sipprell with the National Weather Service said it looks like Wednesday might be dry and hot as a system of hot dry air moves up from Mexico. But the humidity will soar with the rising temperatures and the inevitable fallout will be more rain — likely by the weekend.

He said the area received about two inches in a 36-hour period starting Monday at 7 a.m. He did not have figures to compare to previous years available at press time.

Renee Jean can be reached at 573-431-2010 ext. 117 or .

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