Devils Lake Journal - Devils Lake, ND
  • David Robson: Heat has its advantages

  • Many gardeners scratch their heads and wonder where winter and spring went. It seems we went from a late but colorful autumn into a day each of winter and spring.

    • email print
  • Many gardeners scratch their heads and wonder where winter and spring went. It seems we went from a late but colorful autumn into a day each of winter and spring.
    August-like temperatures in May gave us some pause. We won’t dwell on global warming. We just know things are out of whack.
    Not all the effects are negative, though it’s easier to concentrate of what’s wrong or what’s going to be wrong.
    Look at the large leaf hydrangeas, the ones that suck up water during 90-degree days faster than a camel at an oasis. For years, we babied the plants in the futile hope we’d have beautiful blue, purple, pink or red flowers to enjoy. We even started calling the ubiquitous “endless summer” an “endless bummer.”
    Many gardeners got rid of the plants and put in something less demanding and more consistent. And then Mother Nature thumbed her nose at us. Plants that never had but a handful of blooms late in the season are covered with hundreds of ball-shaped flowers from top to bottom, sucking up water even more with all the flowers acting like siphons — but at least giving something in return for the pampering.
    True, some plants got nipped by a spring frost at a normal time in an abnormal year. The lower flowers, though, were protected and are providing blooms. And do we really care about brown and twisted frost-damaged leaves when they’re topped by blue or pink heads?
    There are other benefits of a mild winter and early spring.
    Peaches are ripening earlier. Frost might have nipped the plants, but it was after the flowers were pollinated so damage was hardly noticeable. July peaches will be showing up at farmers markets in late June to early July instead of August. Yay!
    Apricots are abundant. They often bloom in early spring right about the time we end up with a week of nightly frosts. Not this year.
    Unless your fruit trees were blooming when we had a frost, the fruit crop should be excellent. In fact, it could be more than excellent, with the tree producing more fruit than it should. You probably should do some thinning to prevent limb damage and encourage larger fruits.
    The downsides? There are many weeds.
    First, crabgrass snuck in before most people could put down crabgrass solution, even the professional companies. Until it gets hot and dry and the cool season lawn grasses start going dormant, we don’t see the crabgrass. But it is there. Just waiting.
    Goosegrass and the various foxtails also slipped in before products could be applied. While there is a difference, and weed scientists really do care, most of us lump them together using the all-inclusive term watergrasses, though they prefer dry conditions.
    Page 2 of 2 - Some products are labeled for post-emergence control, but read the label carefully and follow it to a T. Many contain arsenic, which should give you pause. Also, the products tend to be temperature sensitive, giving best results when temperatures are cool.
    Unfortunately, you don’t see the weeds when temperatures are cool. It’s mid-summer when lawns turn brown that these weeds remain green.
    The insects, though, don’t care about temperatures except when to hatch.
    Many horticulturists are surprised Japanese beetles aren’t out yet, though the office pool is the first or second week in June. Winter’s mild temperatures did not reduce the number of grubs. There was also enough food that skunks and raccoons weren’t digging in the ground for a snack.
    So, the population is poised to be larger than in past years, and if temperatures drop back to a normal level, the metallic green and copper insects will be around for months munching between the leaf veins.
    Bagworms, the nemesis of blue spruce and arborvitae, have hatched about two to four weeks earlier than normal. If the tree is small, you can pick off the small bags. If the tree is large, it’s more difficult.
    Of course, mosquitoes are buzzing several weeks early, which many probably discovered over Memorial Day.
    (On the positive side, buffalo gnats got hit by the heat and didn’t stay around long.)
    All this means you may need to be more vigilant with your plants, looking for the devouring insects. Grab a cup of some liquid and walk through your yard and garden in the morning hours, scouting for insects.
    Of course, all this could go by the wayside with lots of rain and low temperatures, which would be abnormal. But after this past winter and spring, is anyone willing to guarantee it won’t happen?

    Comments are currently unavailable on this article

      Events Calendar