I am grateful for the recent rains here in Chicagoland because they have kept me from having to water the garden, and my new plants, particularly those in the rain garden itself, are benefiting from the frequent moisture. However, this has been a soggier spring than usual, and such conditions portend the arrival of two of the worst summertime scourges--powdery mildew and earwigs.
Both develop and thrive in moist, humid, hot conditions. Powdery mildew absolutely decimated the bee balm (Monarda didyma) I tried to grow a few years ago. I was so traumatized by their hideous demise that I have just this year planted some wild bergamot (M. fistulosa) in the hope that the native monarda species will be more mildew-resistant. The current moisture conditions are challenging this foray back into bee balm.
(Can the wild bergamot outwit the mildew?? Odds aren't good with them laying prostrate on the ground...)
Last year the mildew attacked my smooth blue asters (A. laevis), so already my confidence in the natives' ability to avoid this blight is shaken. I removed some suspicious-looking leaves from the asters last week and am closely monitoring the foliage now. The leaves were browned with some black spots--not the telltale white gunk of powdery mildew--but I'm hypersensitive nonetheless.
(Will this aster be a repeat victim?)
As for the second issue, earwigs, I don't know precisely how much damage these disgusting invaders do to my plants, but I highly doubt they contribute anything positive to our little ecosystem here. In the past they have set up shop in my containers when the potting soil remains moist. As a result, there have been times when I stuck my finger in the pots to check the moisture level and swarms of earwigs crawled out. Needless to say, my screaming and flailing most certainly qualified for some "goofy gardener" behavior, a la Carol/May Dreams Garden.
Let me qualify something here--I'm not anti-insect. I grow plants to actively encourage butterflies, bees, and dragonflies to visit my garden (yes, pretty non-scary bugs, I know). I don't disturb the spiders because I know they're eating other bugs. When I saw the guy below, I didn't run, I took a picture. But until someone provides proof of any benefit from earwigs, I will continue to loathe them and smush them on sight.
(What is this insect, in repose on a leaf of pale purple coneflower? Click the picture for a close-up.)
Regardless of my particular prejudices, our rainy, humid weather encourages various garden pests, so if you live in northern Illinois, be on the look-out. I've tried spraying a baking-soda-dish-soap-water mix on the mildew-covered asters but to no avail. I still won't resort to chemicals. I've tried to follow the "ounce of prevention" maxim by amending the soil to make the plants themselves healthier, and I'll still be removing suspect foliage. Are there other suggestions out there for dealing with powdery mildew? How do you cope with this or other climate-related scourges?