2010 – A Year of Extremes

The year of gardening in 2010 was one of wild extremes, especially with respect to weather conditions.  2010 began with extremely wet and cold conditions—a carry-over from the fall of 2009 which had turned nasty, cold, and wet in November and never relented.  January brought tons of snow, ice, and cold, in contrast to previous years which were relatively mild and dry.  I remember vividly returning home to Kansas City from Breckenridge Colorado to find more snow at home than in the mountains!!  From a gardeners point of view, the winter and early spring  months of 2010 were both a nightmare and a blessing.  A blessing because for the first time in years, we had more than ample moisture for trees, shrubs, and perennials, and an insulating blanket of snow to help protect marginally hardy plant materials.   A nightmare because the soggy, sloggy ground just wouldn’t dry up enough to work in garden beds or plant new items.  For our landscape company, spring deadlines for major project completions became a real test of patience and courage as we fought to put finishing touches on creations in the midst of wet conditions.  Spring rains followed winter snows and with a vengeance, so much so that moisture related problems such as fungal and bacterial diseases of both foliage and soil were rampant.  Conversations with colleagues in the green industry confirmed what we were feeling—we couldn’t remember a wetter spring in many years!

Fast forward through the late spring and summer months.  The tremendous amount of moisture in the spring paid great dividends for plants that were in the ground, both new and established.  Soil moisture levels were quite good and plants loved it; even when temperatures rose to expected summer stifling levels, trees, shrubs, and flowers performed well and Kansas City landscapes looked great!  As a matter of fact, a number of plants looked better than we could ever remember.  Certain ground covers were fantastic, many trees bloomed like crazy, and fruit trees that escaped disease problems bore fruit in a bountiful harvest.  All this, we believe, is a testament to the value (and necessity) of high moisture levels going into the freezing season as well as having plenty of available moisture in early spring as growth spurts begin. 

The fall months of 2010 were quite another story, however.  Mother Nature giveth and Mother Nature taketh away—and in the fall, especially the late fall, Mother Nature quit giving valuable rains.  The fall months became quite dry, and the last 60 days of 2010 became dangerously dry.  Late October, all of November, and most of December saw little, if any, appreciable moisture.  The “more than adequate” moisture levels present in spring and early summer disappeared and plants began to retreat in vigor and health.  Fall 2010 was the driest this author can remember (and this author has seen a lot of fall seasons) and landscapers and horticulturists scrambled to apply supplemental moisture to a wide variety of plants.  Particularly affected were azaleas, rhododendrons, and hollies; and those groundcovers that flourished in spring, actually retreated and shrunk back significantly.  Coupled with the fact that many homeowners had their irrigation systems turned off for the season, the late season drought we experienced may cause significant damage to plants as they emerge for the 2011 spring season.  Fortunately, January 10th has brought much needed moisture in the form of snow, but we believe soil moisture levels are still far below what they ideally should be.  Therefore, we are advising our clients, as well as all gardeners and homeowners, to get out into the lawn and landscape when weather conditions allow, and water all evergreens, broadleaf evergreens, and any newly planted trees, shrubs, or perennials.  We believe it is crucial to have supplemental moisture going into spring 2011 in order to have the beautiful “green and flower show” gardeners value so highly.

Invariably, the Kansas City area enjoys a mid-winter thaw, and temperatures rise into 40’s as bright sun melts away any snowfall.  This season, during those “thaws”, take a tour of your landscape and see if any evergreens look droopy or wilty, and if so, give them a much needed drink. (A Ross root feeder is a valuable watering tool especially where runoff might be a concern).   And, as mentioned before, be sure to water any new plantings (less than a couple years old) thoroughly.  If the prospect of dragging out the hose, then draining it and putting it away is just too much work to think about, call Greenleaf (816-916-5171) and let us come water for you.  Our winter watering service is very popular, especially with “snowbirds”, and is invaluable for those homeowners with extensive and valuable plantings.  Greenleaf can also apply anti-dessicant sprays like Wilt-Pruf to help slow down winter “burning” on broadleaf evergreen plants.   And remember, the winter months are a great time to review your gardening successes (and failures) and the perfect time to plan for 2011 landscape projects.  Happy gardening!!

Contributing editor:  Don Archer, Don Archer Designs in partnership with Greenleaf Garden Services