March 7, 2013

The weather of 2012 was odd, to say the least, and the effects on our landscape may be profound.  In March, plants began to break dormancy and those pesky weeds began to germinate much earlier than normal with an average temperature 14 degrees above normal and 8 high temperature record breaking days,  peaking at 85 degrees on the 22nd of March.

The temperatures in April dropped to near normal but for the first time in recorded history, the average temperature in April (49.2 degrees) was lower than the average temperature in March (50.7 degrees).  It actually dipped to 23 degrees on April 29th .  Unfortunately, the freeze damage caused some tender new flowers, leaves and buds to die back, requiring the plant to utilize its reserve energy to develop new leaves from dormant buds.

The 2nd  hottest summer, 3.2 degrees above normal, coupled with the 19th  driest summer, 4.88 inches below normal precipitation, added further stress to your plants and caused some plants under severe stress to enter a state of “eco-dormancy”.  Many weeds, which had an early start, thrive in adverse conditions.  If not controlled properly, weeds steal much needed moisture and nutrients from your desired plants.

A moist early fall and slightly above normal temperatures in mid to late fall relieved the effects of the eco-dormant plants and they responded by flowering immediately instead of their normal spring flowering time.  Unfortunately, they will not flower again this spring.

There is a possibility of the cumulative effects of the 2012 weather conditions will predispose many plants to have increased injury and possibly death this winter.  The question is, how do we limit injury and death to our plant material?  In some cases, it is already too late and removal and replacement are the only options.  In others, limit the stress this coming spring and summer by providing your plants with appropriate moisture and nutrients.  Also, monitor them regularly because stressed plants are prone to disease and insect infestations.  It is typically more cost effective to provide the appropriate maintenance for your landscape rather than removing and replacing.  Protect your landscape investment!

If you have further questions or concerns, contact the Washtenaw County MSU Extension at (734) 997-1678 or me (Steve Scheuring) at Twin Oaks Landscape (734) 213-6911.  We are happy to help!