June 20, 2012

Strange spring stories

It seems odd to be discussing lessons learned from the spring, when springtime weather is long-gone. For those of you in the Southern Hemisphere, I know some of you, too, have reported unusual weather this past season. I can't believe tomorrow is the first full day of summer herewe've had hot weather for weeks!

We're in a bit of a drought here in Dane County, Wisconsin. It has rained north, south, east, and west of here, but the soil here is cracking and crops are languishing. Dane County is among the most bountiful agricultural counties in the Midwest. But the farmers are more nervous with each passing day without rain. Adding high winds and 90+ temperatures for several days makes the outlook even more concerning.


I don't know if you can tell from this photo, but the grass has gone dormant. That's OK, but some of the new plants need a deep drink. The Cotoneaster in the foreground is doing just fine and I haven't watered it at all. But it likes to dry out between waterings.


The established perennials in the backyard look like they typically do this time of year, but they're in deep shade. Unfortunately, they're showing signs of stress, too. I'll keep you posted on the rainfall, but in the meantime I've been watering potted plants, new perennials, and the kitchen garden regularlyto stay ahead of the drought.

And yet, this post is about garden lessons learned in the crazy season we're just now exiting. Thank you to those who participated in the meme! Bloggers who linked in included:

Karin at Southern Meadows. I thought spring was early here, but Karin says her spring weather began in February and quickly morphed to the 90s in early May. Her No.1 advice rings true for me: Don't think you can outsmart Mother Nature! Karin's plans for a late harvest of cool season vegetables didn't work out exactly as planned. Karin's post also includes some excellent lessons and photo captures of caterpillars and snakes!

Girl Sprout NM. She offers a creative take on combining memes in one post. And she cautions: If you decide to plant fussy trees, be ready for the consequences. Unfortunately, one of her Aspens has a canker disease. She advises being grateful for the benefits of weather anomalies, and preparing for the extra care plants need during a drought. Take a look at her impressive square-foot garden.

Michelle at The Sage Butterfly. I must admit, her advice is so important, but sometimes quite difficult to do: Breathe purposefully. The ground never froze in Michelle's garden during the winter, so spring was on hyper drive when it hit. She advises us to accept what comes, realize nature rules, and acknowledge that change is good!

Holley at Roses and Other Gardening Joys. Sunflowers are the highlight of Holley's lessons. It's the first year she has planted them, and she can't wait to get out in the vegetable garden each day. Holley's advice: Grow something fun in your vegetable garden. And make sure you drink a soda now and then. To find out why, check out her post!

Donna at Garden's Eye View. Donna also covered several memes in her post. Among her lessons: Even an experienced gardener like Donna can admit that she doesn't have it all under control. "I am now convinced that I don't know what a typical spring means anymore," she says. "I need to be more like the frog and just go with it." Donna has also discovered the joys of early morning gardening—out of necessity because of the heat.

Rose at Prairie Rose's Garden. The most encouraging part of Rose's post is the lesson about individual creativity and personality in the garden. She attended the Garden Bloggers' Fling in Asheville, N.C., and says the most important lesson she learned there is that no two gardens are the same, and it's OK to bend the "rules" to reflect your own personal style. "It took seeing so many different gardens over the course of a few short days, each with their own special style," she says, "to realize that I don't have to copy someone else's garden, and that my small and often chaotic garden is just fine."

Please visit these excellent posts—I guarantee you'll enjoy them, and you'll learn something new in the process. And check out the comments section on the "lessons learned" post for more garden suggestions and observations. Did I miss anyone? If so, let me know and I'll add you in.

I'm a little distracted and worried about my garden and the local farmers' crops. We need rain. I realize this drought can't compare with the one in the south last year, but I can see it must have been tough. As I write this, a thunderstorm is about to hit, but we'll need more. It's too early in the summer for the plants to dry out...

38 comments:

  1. Beth I am sorry that you are experiencing a drought...we can't win for losing as my mother would say. Cold here, hot there, too much water or not enough...it has been a strange spring but we have all learned to accept, challenge ourselves and work with Mother Nature. Hot here but we have been having rain and we will again tonight and then cool weather at about 70 next week...looking forward to a more normal summer. Doing a rain prayer for you! Great posts and lessons learned.

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    1. So true, Donna. And I feel so bad for our neighbors in Duluth. Too much rain would probably be even worse. I can't imagine having everything swept away in minutes. We will likely have a water deficit until the next big soaker--the thunderstorm didn't help much. But there's always hope. And the temperatures cooled a bit, so that helps.

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  2. Thanks for hosting this once again, Beth. I always enjoy reflecting on the past season and realizing how much I've learned. There were many things I learned in my own garden this season as well--such as nicotania self-seeds...a lot:) But it worked out so well to combine this with my trip to Asheville, because learning that gardens don't have to be trendy or the same was probably one of the most important lessons I've ever learned about gardening.

    Thanks for your lovely comment on my post. We're waiting for rain, too; I hope it comes your way soon!

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    1. Thanks for participating, Rose! It totally makes sense to combine it with the Asheville coverage. I would have loved to attend this year, but the graduation prevented it. I sure hope I can make it next year. And I hope we can meet each other soon. I imagine you're in a similar situation with the rain? But I think you got a decent soaking that never came this far north. We seem to be in a dry dead zone this summer so far. Here's hoping we both get a little more rain soon.

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  3. Sorry to hear about the drought in Wisconsin. It's so hard watching plants wither and having to make decisions which ones to water. We've been fortunate with rain in NC this spring, although a lot of it has come in torrential downpours that run off like crazy.

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    1. It's interesting, Sheila. Most of the state is OK, but southern Wisconsin, and my county in particular just isn't getting the rain. So far, my shady gardens have fared OK, but the lawns all around here are brown and crisp. And the sunny gardens aren't doing well at all. A lot of people are watering way too much, so I fear we'll have a watering ban if this keeps up. But when the rain finally comes it will feel so sweet.

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  4. Droughts are so frustrating. Do you have city or well water? Because I'm on city water I can water when we don't get rain but the bills are always huge. One lesson I've learned is that if you have a wet spot and pack it with plants that like water, the demand for water will soon outstrip the supply unless it's spring fed or you have a high water table. I planted a river birch to solve a water problem and ended up creating a swath of dry shade! The birch is always the winner in the water wars.

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    1. Hi TS: We have city water--so I'm in the same situation. I just prefer not to water so much. But it gets to the point where I don't want to lose the plants either. So I try to really soak the fragile new plants periodically. And I don't baby the native, established perennials. I don't seem to have uneven wet/dry spots--except for expected ones and the plants are appropriate for the location (thanks to the previous owners). But this high-temp, windy drought throws all my history with this garden out the window. Fortunately, the temps have cooled which is helping a bit.

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  5. I hope you get gentle soaking rain. We have the clouds ... but are waiting for the actual rain to fall.

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    1. That is a sweet wish, Diana. We received less than 0.10 of an inch last night, and not much more is in the forecast. :( Just one of those things, I guess. I hope I don't lose too many plants this summer. I will wish the same gentle rain for you, too. Thanks!

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  6. Sorry to hear about your drought, I wish I could send some rain to you, we have plenty!!! It's been so cold and so much rain here that spring isn't really over yet, despite the calendar saying we are supposed to have summer...Loved your picks of advices, so great to learn from other gardeners :-)

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    1. Thanks, Helene. I can't complain too much because we've had incredible weather for weeks on end. But then I guess eventually you pay for it. Just a couple of hours north of here, people have had historic flooding--very strange. I know you've had rain for too long. Let's exchange! ;-)

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  7. I'm glad you got a little rain last night, but it doesn't sound like much. Last year it felt like Santa Fe was in a black hole and that all the rain fell in surrounding areas. It sounds like you're experiencing the same thing.

    Thank you so much for hosting Beth! I had a great time thinking of lesson learned for the spring.

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    1. Thanks for participating! Your post was very creative! Yeah, fortunately it has cooled down a bit, but we still have a major deficit in rainfall. I hope I don't lose any cherished plants. One of these days, I want to visit Santa Fe. It sounds like a wonderful city!

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  8. You know, but for these blogs I wouldn't really know what was happening in the gardening communities nationwide. In Seattle we're celebrating making it to 70' for two days straight! The vegetable garden is pretty sad thanks to cold temperatures and too much rain.

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    1. Gosh, that is cold for summer! If it was 80 year-round, with light daily rain I sure would be happy. I guess I need to move to San Diego. But maybe that would be boring. It sure isn't boring here now.

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  9. There is crazy weather all around, in Tokyo it was hot then cold then storm and overall crazy. And in my hometown in Mexico they just broke record being the hottest city in the world for a day.
    Hope you get some rain soon

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    1. Gosh, the hottest city in the world--I'm not sure I could take that! I suppose you're enjoying the more normal weather in Tokyo now? I'm glad you're back to blogging--I sure enjoy hearing about your balcony garden!

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  10. We are experiencing weather very similar to you. We were promised rain and it did not come. Temps are high and the garden needs the relief of rain. Everyone seems to have similar advice to go with what nature has in store. There is not much choice, but to do that, whether we like the weather options or not. Always hoping the weather gets a little more amenable.

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    1. True, not much choice. And gardening isn't as much fun when things are dying and you have to cart water around all the time. I think I'm going to try more succulents next summer. Here's hoping we both get some rain!

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    2. I am scared this is trending. Our weather traditionally has had good growing weather and the past two years the farmers suffered greatly. The state is chipping in this year to subsidize the farmers for the damage to the picking crops. At the farm, the conifers were all burnt from frost and wind, and will not be salable for two years from now.

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    3. It will be interesting if something similar happens in our state. Time and crop damage will tell. Not fun to watch. And if we do get too much rain all at once, the risk of flooding is very scary. I'm so sorry to hear about the conifer damage.

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  11. I feel sorry for you going through a drought. It is so very discouraging to see the plants withering. Especially tragic are the crops that may not become harvestable. That affects not only the farmer, but the consumers down the line. Here, there are still so many dead trees that died from last year's drought. But we have thankfully been getting a little bit of rain, and so the plants that made it are really thriving. I hope you get rain soon.

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    1. Thanks, Holley. I know you had it a lot worse last summer. At this point, I'm just praying every time there's a chance of rain that we'll get a little. The farmers are worse off, because not all of them irrigate their crops. The corn looks awful. :(

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  12. We desperately need rain too ~ there are several big fires burning in our state because we haven't had anywhere near the normal amount of moisture. Maybe I shouldn't complain about the snow this winter??!!! I hope we all get some rain SOON. I was thinking you were having rain tho ~ we keep hearing stories about flooding in your part of the country so I thought you were at least getting wet. We all need the farmers crops to do well. Crossing my fingers....

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    1. Hi Kathleen: That's the weird thing about this drought. Just a few hours north of here, folks are having historic floods. Very strange. I'm crossing my fingers that you'll get some rain, too, and the fires will go out. Take care!

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  13. I came by here yesterday and tried to leave a comment, but I was having connection problems....think the cable company was having issues. All is well, now. I am so sorry you are having a drought. That is one of my least favorite things about gardening--is watching things perish or suffer because of drought. I wish you rain, and lots of it, very soon. We have had a very hot and dry week, but rain is predicted soon. And thank you for hosting this wonderful meme that encourages me, all of us, to reflect back on each season to uncover what I have learned.

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    1. Yes, I agree, Michelle. Droughts are not fun at all for gardeners or farmers. But after watching all the reports about our neighbors to the north, I'm thinking floods would be worse. Thanks for your kind words, and I really appreciate your friendship and support!

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  14. It seems that the tables are turned this year. We have lots of experience with drought but it never gets easier! The only thing we do is get creative on how to collect rain water when it does come down. I hope you get some rain very soon! It is painful to see plants suffering. I really enjoy participating in this meme!

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    1. Thanks, Karin. It is tough to watch the plants wither. This week will be dry again. Fortunately, the temperatures are much cooler, so that will help. We installed a rain barrel recently which is helping to direct the precipitation we do get to the plants that really need it. I appreciate your participation!

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  15. Hi there, thanks for the visit, I'm glad I came across your blog. We normally have a very dry summer, the only way we keep our crops going is by gathering water out of our water table underground. We have a problem now as most of that water is gone or unsuitable for farming. I guess we shall soon start feeling the effects of this. Hope the rain come soon for you, and that it's not too late.

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    1. Thanks! Yeah, it's pretty dry here still. And now it's getting hot again. Good luck with your water situation, too. That must be challenging to pull water from deep underground!

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  16. Beth, I hope you had some rain recently! We actually could use some of your warmth. Our summer is still cool. I didn't plant as many vegetables as before. I'm not sure we'll have any tomatoes and cucumbers. They need higher temperatures. But if to choose, I'd prefer such cool weather and avoid a drought.
    Thank you for your comment on my calla post! I posted an answer. Good luck!

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    1. I agree, Tatyana. The summer isn't as much fun when there's a drought. And I really feel for folks with forest fires in their backyards. It's just too hot and dry this year. And for you, I hope you get some warmth for your veggies.

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  17. A very interesting synopsis of your gardening friends' thoughts, it was fun to read. I hope the drought ends soon, and all your plants survive. Keep us posted.

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    1. Thanks, Masha! Yeah, not much good news yet. And now it's getting hotter again. I'm tired of worrying about plants and pumping water. Argh.

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  18. My heart goes out to those gardeners already struggling with drought, and it's not easy to stay ahead of the watering. Those poor plants, lets just hope that those who need it get rain, and those who need some sun, get sun.

    Jen @ Muddy Boot Dreams

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    1. So true, Jen. Some have too much, and others have way too little rain. I'm not hearing much about gardeners with perfect weather right now. I hope things "normalize" before too long.

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