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Green Speak

Horticulture topics from gardens to lawns and then some.

Natures Lessons: Saharan Summers and Artic Winters


We've all experienced times of drought and we all know what to do for our plants when precipitation doesn't arrive when it should. But I would like to draw exception to the drought of 2012 as a year when gardeners across Illinois stopped monitoring inches of rainfall in their gauge and started worrying about water availability in the soil. Soil moisture was so low that watering seemed to provide almost no relief to our parched plants. Due to our clayey soils exceptional ability to hold water molecules, much of our irrigation efforts were sucked up by the ground and held so tightly that there was little to no plant available water. Fall brought us a renewed sense of hope in the garden as temperatures cooled and rain returned. 2012 ended as the 10th driest and 2nd hottest year on record for Illinois and left our soil moisture still far below normal.

With winter in full swing, we saw how quickly weather can turn a cloudy drizzly day, into a blinding blizzard on December 20th. Most of us were able to huddle up in our homes and wait it out, but some became stranded from home and family for over a day. As for the garden, our evergreens have been weighed down with snow and ice for several weeks, and if you haven't already, gently brush or shake off what snow and ice you can from your plant's limbs. It is also important to protect broadleaved evergreens from winter winds by planting them in a sheltered area or setting up some type of winter windbreak. Last year we had almost no snow, the year before we had record snowfalls. What this winter will bring is anybody's guess.

For the most part, our landscapes seem to take this extreme weather in stride. Eventually, the snow will melt, the clouds will open up, the sun will shine, and the seasons will begin again. Gardening is an exercise in patience. A house can be built and finished in a few months, a paper can be edited until it is free of errors and ready for submittal, but the landscape is never finished. Even visions for our gardens take time and there is always that rouge weed poking its head into the picture frame.

Author Jared Kintz humorously observes how sometimes when you ask for a glass of water, life gives you ice, and when you want ice all you have is water. "Ah, but that's life, no?" Perhaps it is our dispositions that when it is hot we long for cold and when it is cold we long for hot. Or maybe it is nature giving us a lesson in patience, after all this ice will turn to water-- eventually.

Here's wishing all you gardeners out there an easy winter, an invigorating spring, lush summer, and plentiful fall for 2013, but if it doesn't turn out that way...well, be patient.


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