It's not just small scale gardeners like me, either. In Oregon, pear trees bloomed two weeks ahead of schedule - while rented bees were all still in California's almond orchards and before the native bees had emerged from winter. Indeed, in 25 years Oregon has been keeping records, this year was their "lowest amount of chilling by a considerable amount. The three lowest years of chilling occurred in the last four years, with this year being the lowest." Washington state is also seeing its crops starting two and a half weeks ahead of normal due to warm temperatures, which are also jeopardizing the state's wheat crops. To the north, the warm winter has put British Colombia's blueberries in a "danger zone." To the south, a record breaking heat killed famed California poppy blooms.
How do our gardens survive these unexpected weather changes? How can we normalize patterns in our gardens to ensure decent crops?
Temperature Manipulation - In a desperate attempt to get my rhubarb to come up, I mulched it with ice cubes for several days - too cool the soil to the requisite temperature. No dice. I've read that the technique will also not help with chilling requirements. I did, however, put hoops over my raised beds that will enable me to install greenhouse plastic or shade cloth as needed. Greenhouses and cold frames can also help.
Plant Variety - If you are putting in fruit trees, choose ones that have lower chilling requirements and that are of more disease resistant stock. Also, put in a wide variety of fruit trees. My most successful apple tree has been the Winter Banana, an heirloom that has been popular in mild winter areas. Further, when trees are stressed by weather changes, they become more susceptible to disease and pests. Fire blight roared through my city two years ago, taking many apple and pear trees. I replaced the Asian pear tree that I lost with a disease resistant variety. Finally, I have aimed to have many different kinds of fruit trees. Last year, the apple harvest for our three trees totaled less than 10 apples. Fortunately, I also have plums, figs, citrus, pears, pomegranates and persimmons. If it is too hot or wet for one type of tree, hopefully it will be just right for another.
|Plant for bees in your garden to increase the likelihood your edibles will be pollinated.|
|A cover crop of fava beans shields out weeds, retains water and puts nitrogen into the soil|
|A pine needle mulch adds organic material to the soil to help it retain water.|
For more ideas, check out the post - Weathering the Garden - that I wrote on this topic back in 2011.
What changes have you made in how your garden to account for unpredictable weather?
This post is part of the Tuesday Garden Party, Maple Hill Hop and Green Thumb Thursday.