The winter of 2012 was the warmest on record for most of the USA. I’ll be the first to admit I was happy not to fill the fuel tank twice and we didn’t need to use much firewood. I am concerned for my garden though. In January, the Department of Agriculture announced that we all have gone up ½ a climate zone.
We went from Zone 6b to Zone 7a-about a 5 degree difference. It doesn’t seem like much but it will affect your garden in the long run.
The March weather pattern in our area of north eastern Maryland has been very different and unpredictable. I have kept daily weather records for the past seven years. In March, we only had 0.57 inches of rain. Last year we had 6.82 inches (unusually high). Our average is 4.25 inches.
I mulched the garlic and onions I planted last October. I have watered them twice already. I haven’t ever had to do that before. Now is the critical time for their bulb growth and they aren’t getting the rain they need.
Today is April 16th and it hit 87°! The average high temperature for April 16th over the last seven years is 63°. I had to put shade (old window screens) over my broccoli, chard, cabbage and bok choi. The low humidity and bright sun can burn them quickly. They are not used to growing in “hot” weather.
It has only rained twice so far and we’ve received 0.41 inches of rain. Because March was so dry, I put my rain barrels out early and I was able to collect 250 gallons of precious rain. I have used 90 gallons so far. I have watered and then mulched everything with rotted straw. I usually use grass clippings but the grass isn’t growing as fast as normal. I have adjusted my mower blade height to 4 inches from 3.5 inches and I’m letting it go a little longer before I mow. My yard does look a little shaggier but I’m willing to live with that.
If you are experiencing an unusually warm and dry spring-here are a few actions you can take to help your garden:
- Collect and store as much rain water as you can. The containers don’t have to be fancy. I use green or blue trash cans. The green and blue cans don’t seem to grow algae as quickly.
- Water your plants directly. Don’t use a sprinkler. The low humidity will cause too much water to evaporate into the air.
- Water your plants in the evening. Plants absorb better at night when they are less stressed.
- Mulch everything that you have growing once it has emerged. It takes a little time and you must be gentle around your plants but this precaution will help your garden over the summer.
- Lastly, monitor your garden often and watch how your plants are growing. You may need to water more often than you are used to.