I always hesitate to write about something current in the newspaper because it will probably be obsolete by the time it’s published. What could be more obsolete than last week’s weather? Today, I publish on my blog instead.
The late run of summer-like weather in December/January has confirmed I’m not a snow bird (those friends who head south during the Midwest winters). I enjoy winter weather and would hate to face every day with perfect temperatures.
I’ve had quite a few folks mention their plants and trees were acting as if it’s spring. New perennial sprouts pushing up, trees budding out, and grass is still green. The plants are confused.
The questions are will any of these plants die and will the spring flowering plants have flowers next spring? The answer is “depends”.
If you have a plant that has been severely stressed, this could push it into dead. With the late summer drought conditions in 2011, the energy for two spring-type buddings could stress a plant, especially trees.
Now before you worry - realize there’s not much you can do about it at this point – especially if we have a continual freeze and a layer of snow.
I’ve heard it recommended you drag out your hoses and water trees and other plants (especially those recently planted) until the ground freezes so hard and deep it no longer takes in the water. I agree but realize most people simply don’t get this task accomplished once hoses are stored inside.
For otherwise healthy plants, they will probably survive. We’ll have to wait and see if the spring flowering trees and bushes bloom come spring; my unscientific guess is bloom quantity will be down.
Once the ground freezes, it wouldn’t hurt to toss a few inches of additional mulch on those perennials sprouts. It won’t preserve the sprouts but it will help insulate the tender plant parts underground. A continuous covering of deep snow does much the same thing.
If our winter continues to be mild, you might see a large quantity of insects next summer since the natural winter kill numbers will be less. Same with birds and critters.
We could still have months of normal winter weather – freezing temperatures, ice, wind and snow. Meteorologists say we have now moved into a period where we can no longer make up the lost averages for winter moisture and temperature (or as Terry Swails says, “The winter that wasn’t.”) That doesn’t mean it's clear sailing into spring. What it does mean is next spring and summer could be different and interesting.
The point of this article: Don’t spend time worrying about your outdoor plants at this point. Sit back and enjoy the beauty of our Midwest winter. If there are ramifications this spring, deal with them in the spring. As for me, I’m just thankful I don’t have to deal with the weather in Cordova Alaska!
Side Note: Don, a school mate who is also a beekeeper, said bees come out on warm days to unburden themselves (poop) and will not be killed from coming out of hibernation. Bees do not hibernate, they keep their wings moving and stay close together to keep the hive warm. The largest winter kills are during very cold February and March because they starve to death.