Sunday, March 18, 2012

What all this Unseasonably Warm Weather Means for Your Trees and Plants.

What a fabulous March we are having!  We were granted another day of record breaking warm temperatures in Chicagoland.  My kids are loving bike rides to the park in shorts and t-shirts and the sound of the ice cream man's truck for the first time this season.  The plants and trees are also enjoying this weather.  We are surrounded by bright yellow daffodils and purple crocus. Even starts of hostas are starting to sprout.  
However, there are predictions of cold weather that will be threatening to make a comeback in coming weeks, which could kill off the early-blooming flowers and crops.
Once plants get started, it is hard to slow them down.  It is if they are waking up, and they’re ready to go without hesitation.  
Our record-breaking temperatures have climate experts wary of the abnormally prolonged period of warm weather that started this week and is expected to continue into next.
This warm spell has kick-started the growing season 2-3 weeks, if not more, ahead of schedule.  
Records show the last similar warm spell happened in 1945.  Each time unseasonably warm temperatures arrived in March in the past, they were then followed by periods of freezing weather.  
In fact, the number of freezing temperature events from April through June is more than 10 for those months.  It’s been as cold in the single digits in early April.  It seems hard to believe that we could go from the 80s to single digits.  It is hard on us to adjust, but just imagine what that would do to your fragile plants and trees.
The problem is fruits, such as some apples and apricots, and early-blooming plants, such as peonies and some types of tulips, spend winter in a dormant state.
When unseasonably warm temperatures come about, especially for a prolonged period of time, the plants and fruits begin sprouting, she said.
Gardeners can take certain precautions to guard sprouts and buds against the cold, Finneran said, such as putting a tarp over flowerbeds prior to freezing weather.
But such measures are difficult when attempting to protect trees and bushes from chilly temperatures.
We certainly are not out of the woods with regard to cold weather, and the more soft (plant) tissue is exposed, the greater risk that you’re going to lose leaves, chutes, buds, flower buds and fruits if we have a significantly cold pattern.
If we see magnolias pushing out and we get a really hard freeze, they’re toast.
It is possible, that the coming weeks defy history and avoid freezing temperatures altogether.
But given the past climate and climatology, we almost certainly will see colder weather.  So be prepared to give your plants and trees the protection they need from the cold.
Thanks for reading, 

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