Editor’s note: This commentary is by Ron Krupp, a gardener and author whose second Vermont organic gardening book came out a few months ago. “The Woodchuck Returns to Gardening” is a companion to his first book, “The Woodchuck’s Guide to Gardening.” This piece first aired on VPR. He lives in South Burlington.
I‘d been hoping for a summer of gardening with intervals of blue skies and sun interspersed with soft rain and even a few rainbows. But of course, that’s always my ideal scenario and so far it’s been another strange season.
To be honest every growing season has its quirks, but this year the crabapples bloomed at the same time as the lilacs, and that is an unusual occurrence.
I noticed winter injury from the severe cold on many evergreens this spring, as well as some of the azaleas. This didn’t surprise me, since the winter was bitter and we didn’t have a January thaw to let moisture penetrate the needles of evergreens. Winter injury to evergreens occurs when water is transpired or lost through plant tissue more quickly than it can be absorbed through the roots. This is caused by long dry periods of cold accompanied by strong winds. When this happens, anti-desiccant sprays help by adding a protective waxy coating to the leaves of broadleaf evergreens to help slow the process of transpiration.
I know at least one gardener who decided to spray her dead needles with green paint. Hmm!
However, you need to wait till the temperature is about 40 degrees Fahrenheit before applying the spray. And there weren’t any 40 degree days in the winter.
When a neighbor asked me what she should do with the damaged parts of an evergreen shrub, I suggested cutting them out of the shrub in the hope it will fill in over the summer. We’ll see. I know at least one gardener who decided to spray her dead needles with green paint. Hmm!
I lost my own classic blue clematis to the winter elements this year. These perennial vines are strikingly beautiful as they climb trellises in cottage gardens, and their flowers are favorites of bees and butterflies. I’ll probably purchase a new clematis and perhaps write a poem about it.
My climbing rose also got hit. And some of my friends told me their dianthus or pinks suffered cold damage, as well as perennials like coral bells and butterfly bush.
In late May, when temperatures plunged, everyone resumed wearing sweaters and light jackets. There were light frosts in the higher elevation and colder zones and gardeners were told to cover their eggplants, peppers and tomatoes. While crocuses came out late, mushrooms got an early start. Go figure. Shadberry bloomed profusely in higher elevations but poorly in the warmer Champlain Valley.
According to climatologists this intense variability is due to climate change. And that reminds me of an old Vermont saying that seems quite appropriate — especially now and maybe for years to come. “If you don’t like the weather, just wait a minute and it will change.”