Erratic temperatures: Mother Nature’s joke

Mother Nature is playing a cruel joke on plants this winter. Her erratic temperature swings are sending mixed messages to the bulbs in my gardens causing a gardening oops – GOOPs for short – that is way beyond my control.

I’ve fessed up a multitude of my own gardening oops here on the first of each month … been doing so for years … but this one is not my doing.

The balmy temperatures of December enticed some narcissi – planted in a southwestern exposure near my front walkway – to peek out of their protected home beneath the soil.

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Under normal conditions, if there is such a thing anymore, these same bulbs would not show their rounded green leaf tips until late February or early March. Their last year’s early showing – in January – was bizarre enough … but this season they outdid that early showing by two weeks. I first noticed them in December.

Being the protective type, I covered the green tips with evergreen boughs cut from our no-longer needed Christmas tree.

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Then we had a good snow and seasonal (dare I say normal?) cold temperatures. I breathed a sigh of relief when, after the snow melted and I peeked at the green tips, I saw no signs of new growth upward.

Then this weather came through:

  • Wednesday temperatures in the mid-50’s; overnight temperatures in the mid-40’s
  • Thursday temperatures in the mid-50’s; overnight temperatures in the mid-20’s
  • Friday (February 1)  forecast is for temperatures the mid-30’s; overnight temperatures below 20.

What’s a bulb to do? Well, with warm temperatures, bulbs grow. A different set of narcissi, planted along the foundation of our house, have grown over 6 inches tall. Last February they stood 5 inches tall.

If warming trends continue …  NASA reports 2012 as the ninth warmest year since 1880 … Connecticut-planted bulbs, such as narcissi, may begin to bloom in February instead of March. While loving the sight of early blooms after winter’s cold, it may not be a good thing to have these blooms so early. As noted in a recent NBC News article, earlier flowering increases the chance that flowers are killed by freezes. This, in turn, could mean fewer flowers to attract early insects that feed spring birds.

I’ll do my best to try to slow the growth of these bulbs. Their evergreen blanket will minimize ground-level temperature swings by preventing sunlight from reaching … and rapidly warming … the soil. But I can’t fight Mother Nature.

Do you have a GOOPs to share? It’s easy to do. Just tell your gardening oops tale in a comment below, or share your GOOPs on your own blog while leaving a teaser and link in a comment below.

Don’t be shy … every gardener has blunders and when we share our GOOPs we can learn from each other.

If you are not making mistakes, you are not gardening hard enough!

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1 comment for “Erratic temperatures: Mother Nature’s joke

  1. February 1, 2013 at 9:42 am

    I chuckled at “what’s a bulb to do”! They are coping with these crazy swings as we are. I can’t believe all the snow (and we had pretty deep cover) was completely gone in one day as the fog and high temps and warm rain erased it all.

    Your bulbs will thank you for the extra care and cover.

    My oops is on my blog this morning, and it’s a common one we all make: incorrect pruning.

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