Sunday, September 7, 2014

Copious Amount of Snow?

It’s September and we are starting the “what if” cycle of winter weather predictions.  At this point most are based on the 2015 “Farmer’s Almanac”. 

The question is “Do we batten down the hatches?” in our homes, businesses and gardens or “let winterizing slide?”

First off let’s acknowledge the fine art of predicting weather is as easy as getting an orchid to survive in the Midwest.  It might be spot on but the law of averages tells us maybe not so much accuracy is possible.  The important thing about weather predictions is it’s the number one topic of conversation if you live in a Midwest farm community.  And if you don’t love the topic, you’re not really Midwest, farm, or community are you?

Back yard and woods during snow storm

 My farmer dad, born in 1908, could talk weather from every side of the coin.  I used to love hanging out when a neighbor would stop by.  They would stand with one leg propped up on the bumper of a pick-up, talk and spit, spit and talk, and predict, ruminate and complain about the weather.

Even though farmer weather talk is an interesting cultural phenomenon not to be missed by any little kid – the fact remains weather can make or break the back of families depending on nature for their very livelihood.  And another fact is the truth to the old saying, “Everyone talks about the weather but no one can do anything about it.”

In the garden, there is more (but not a lot) we can do if we suspect there’s going to be a nasty winter like last year.  

Front yard with no clean up in the fall
Mulching is one important step to take for perennials.  It doesn’t keep the ground from freezing but it keeps the roots from deadly freezing/thawing over and over all winter.  In fact, many perennials do better when they have a good frozen winter.  A thick cover of mulch over the root area (but not touching the stem) will be a welcome protection.

The front of our drive 2011
A thick covering of straw is a great mulch for garden perennials or other short-stemmed plants.  Unless the garden had some kind of disease, I don’t clean up my fall beds.  By leaving until spring, the leaves and snow form thick protection for my perennials.  Up on this hill, we have lots of cold wind and that cold wind is a worse killer of trees, bushes and perennials than snow and low temperatures.

Roses have a whole sophisticated instruction for winter protection.  Do you want to keep your tea roses, then you better know how to implement those steps.  For more hardy roses, the heavy mulching will help.

Howard County IN 1978
Snow damage (and to some extent ice damage) may be lessoned on multi-stemmed evergreen bushes if you take old nylon stockings and loosely tie the several trunks together prior to winter.  If you’ve ever seen a juniper or arborvitae after lots of heavy wet snow weighs down the branches, you’ll be able to picture this damage.  This often splits the trunks and most never really recover completely.

One thing we can be certain about is last winter culled out most of our semi-hardy plants and we won’t have to worry about what’s left as much.

Kokomo IN 1978
Side Note:  And if you didn’t find out where those cold drafts were coming into your home last winter, you might want to consider making a caulk gun your new best friend this fall.  The amount you spend on caulk is so much less than the amount you’ll spend heating a drafty house.  I used to do energy audits at one time during my Illinois Power career and drafty leaks are such an energy waster.  Suck up your pride and cover those leaky windows with plastic – it may save you enough to buy new windows down the road.  Our very own Hathaway’s hardware store has everything you need to winterize your home.    

When the predictions use words like:  “copious amounts of snow and rain”, “below-normal temperatures”, “frigid arctic air…perhaps 40 below zero”, and the scary “red flagging”, it could describe a Midwest winter. 

My brother and I -1945
What is the “Farmer’s Almanac” predicting for us?  “Stinging, biting cold and normal snowfall.”  West of the Mississippi: “Piercing, bitter, frigid cold and normal snowfall.”  Will they be right? My prediction is it will be winter.  OK, that’s lame but it’s true.  We live in the Midwest and we will be cold and have snow.  My most certain prediction is we will talk about it until spring hits and then we’ll predict if we’ll have a good summer.  It’s what we do in the Midwest farm communities and we do it well.


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