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Lowenfels: In uncertain climate, focus on the weather at hand

Jeff Lowenfels

Lots of people have been asking me if there's been a quantum shift in our climate, and some are even asking if we should leave things in the ground much longer than usual.

This is a fair question, but only if you can ask it annually. We might be having a longer season, but Fairbanks had the shortest growing season they've had in decades due to a early killing frost. And while the temperature is clearly above normal this year, I think it was in the single digits this time of year back in 1996.

I am the first to admit that we need to rethink the time we traditionally expect first frost. It used to be Sept. 15. Time will only tell if we need to rethink when to expect measurable amounts of snow that sticks and stays. It used to be around but always before Halloween, until last year that is. The point is not confuse weather with climate change. The two are related, but not the same. You and I have to deal with the weather when it comes to gardening. And the weather is unpredictable enough.

Back to pushing back harvest. First, I always mention starting a second crop of cole crops in June, especially broccoli (this is usually a calendar item and not a column). There is no question, if you can make it past a couple of frosts, the odds are good that you can get produce. You have to pick your crops and there is only so much broccoli a family can withstand, but second cropping is a viable option in Southcentral these days.

Still, enough is enough, most would say. Nonetheless, if you think it is still unseasonably warm and really want to get into the ground, why not hunt down some spring bulbs? You can also still move perennials with ease. And, of course there is plenty of pruning to do now that leaves are off and the sap is not running (not lilacs) and even seed head removal on self-seeding annual weeds.

Me? I am going to concentrate on those survey markers I use to keep the plower on the driveway and finally get them in the ground before it does freeze. I might just give the leaves on the lawn one more run-over with the mower. And, I am surely going to collect those that are on our driveway and keep them for next year when I need brown mulch.

We are constrained by weather, and that means this could be the last week we can go out and get neighbors' bagged leaves without risking snow covering the bags. I am never sure on the etiquette when it comes to taking these bagged leaves. I suppose it might be a good idea to ask permission first, but once they are bagged up and waiting for the garbage collectors does it really matter? I would love to have your thoughts on the matter, along with your questions. Go to www.teamingwithmicrobes.com.

Garden Calendar

Plantskydd: What are you waiting for?

Extra snow markers: Consider using them to mark things in your garden you do not want to be walked on when folks are snowshoeing around.

Check outdoor faucets: Call me paranoid, but it is always a good idea to make sure yours are shut off and don’t have attachments.

Bird feeders: Too early. Clean yours, however. Do not store bird seed outdoors yet.


Jeff Lowenfels
Special to the Daily News