Looking Back At The Difficult Summer

As this past summer goes, here in New England, we’ve been blessed.  We didn’t have very many 100+ days, we had drought, but it wasn’t the searing drought that so much of the rest of the United States had, and when the rains came, for the most part, they did not bring with them the damaging winds that so many other parts of the country got.  Connecticut was, I believe, even spared its usual tornado or two although we did have plenty of watches and warnings and occasional straight line wind damage.

So I found it interesting that I was getting so many calls for my “Putting the Garden to Bed for Winter” lecture.  And judging by publicity for other speakers, I see that they are getting the same requests.  I have to wonder what’s behind this and I’ll certainly ask my groups when I speak to them (after the lecture of course).

I have a couple of theories. First, I wonder if it doesn’t have to do with the fact that none of us could “Put the Garden to Bed” properly last year because of the freak October snowstorm.  For most of us, the gardens lay under a tangle of vines, broken branches with wet, brown leaves and who knows what else, until springtime came.  As a result, many people lost plants–or thought they did–because of that.

For those that were able to get the gardens cleaned up–or out–last fall, after the storm (and I was one of those) what I found this spring  was even more disheartening!  I’ve never had as much dieback on my hydrangeas as I’d had over the last winter (I’ve spoken about this before–and even shown photos–for those of you that are longtime readers).  I attribute that to the long-term drought which is still continuing here.  We have consistently been 5″ or more shy of the moisture we need since the beginning of 2012.  Hydrangeas, as moisture loving plants–are going to take that worse than most.

The other phenomena that we’ve had is these heavy flooding rains that come all at once.  That’s really not terribly beneficial for the garden. It’s great for replenishing the reservoirs–I’m not going to complain about any rain at all when we get it–but as far as the gardens are concerned, so much of it just runs right off it can’t really benefit them much.

I’ve been seeing evidence of this all over the place–down by our lake, in the runoff patterns leading to it, in my own gardens where the water will pond (hooray for clay soil–at least it traps and holds the rain better than most) and in clients’ gardens where I go to consult and also see runoff patterns in their beds and mulch.

It is said that this is the “new normal:” patterns of drought followed by huge storms.  Again, remember, weather does not equal climate so I’m not going to pass on reasons, other than to say that I firmly believe that we are killing the earth with our behaviors.

But if this is in fact the pattern of what is to come in the future, we’re all going to have to change how we garden–and how we grow food, for that matter, both in our own yards and on a large scale.  But that’s a post for another day.

4 thoughts on “Looking Back At The Difficult Summer

  1. Sue September 28, 2012 / 7:11 pm

    As far as the torrential rains go, for years I’ve been making the observation that we hardly ever get a normal rainy day anymore (with the exception of today perhaps). Rainy days are just so rare. Remember when we would get days of them strung together?

    I’ve been thinking about putting my garden to bed earlier than usual this year as well. Temperatures have been cold for September and I supect we may get an early frost. Since I bring quite a few plants from my containers in for the winter, I don’t want to be caught short.

    Also, although my yard did get hit hard from the October snow storm last year, and I managed to get it all cleaned up, it left me no time for renovations or bulb planting. I’m hoping with an early dismantling I can catch up on some of those optional chores over the next couple of weekends.

    • gardendaze September 29, 2012 / 9:42 am

      Hi Sue,
      I do remember those strings of rainy days. It looks as if this stretch of weather is going to be the closest thing we’ll have–although don’t tell that to folks along the Connecticut shore who got flooded out yesterday. It certainly wasn’t “normal” for them!

      I’ve been working on the putting the garden to bed earlier this year too. I’m not sure I’ll get to bulb planting–but even without freak storms, it seems as if there’s never enough time to do the things I want to do before the really unpleasant weather sets in.

      The houseplants are in, the compost is in the vegetable garden, already working in there for next spring (around what’s left of the veggies, of course) and I’ve begun cutting back some of the stuff that just looks dreadful–hostas, petasites, rudbeckia. So we’ll see how that works.

      Good luck and thanks for reading!


  2. My Education of a Gardener September 29, 2012 / 6:08 pm

    “… I firmly believe that we are killing the earth with our behaviors.” I agree with the essence of your statement, Karla – that our human greed and recklessness is life-killing – but can “kill the earth?” The Earth, I’m sure, will be here long after the human species. That said, its time for humans to accept their place in the scheme of things. We are stewards, not masters. Gardeners, in particular, have to be more responsible about water usage and environmental impact, to plant according to rainfall and climate. How I wish we could get rid of lawns! Think of the positive effects of that single gesture.

    I always learn from my visits to Gardendaze. Thanks, and best wishes to you.

    • gardendaze September 29, 2012 / 6:19 pm

      Hi Tom,
      Thanks for reading and commenting. Just last week I read a very interesting post somewhere about how very difficult it is, in fact, to “kill the earth,” as I have so badly stated it. Of course it won’t come to me where I read it and it’s probably not all that relevant anyway. I think we both agree–and I was surely aiming in that direction with my closing paragraph–that gardening will need to change in the future. I would love to see more home gardeners embracing organics. I think that positive change would be incredibly helpful, even if they kept their lawns.

      But all we can do is to be the change we want to see. And I thank you for your thoughtful comment!


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