Gardening in Interesting Times: An Expert’s View

There’s an old saying “may you live in interesting times.” For gardeners, this year promises to be more interesting than we could ever hope for — or want! A drought that began last fall continued through our unprecedentedly warm winter. Now, it is March and the temperatures the past few days have been hovering in the 70s and 80s. (Reality check: even in southern Minnesota the average temperature in March is in the 40s.) Next week looks damper and ever so slightly cooler, but still a good 20 degrees above Minnesota’s usual March.

How do you garden in weather that no one has seen before — at least, no one who stopped to record and write about it?

Feeling baffled, I checked in with some experts over the weekend. My first stop was Knecht’s Nurseries and Landscaping in Northfield, where Leif Knecht is taking a philosophical approach to the strange weather. “Let’s consider this past winter a blessing,” he said.

If we get severely cold weather in late March or early April—something along the lines of 10 to 15 degrees, which is not unheard of in spring in Minnesota—there could be serious damage to trees and plants that may leaf out in these super warm temperatures. However, Leif noted, plants are pretty tough, and many early bloomers handle moderate cold—mid- to upper-20s and above—reasonably well. Assuming climate change has something to do with this strange winter, it may be a good bet that we will not have the extreme cold we have experienced in the past.  As Leif said, “We won’t know until June when it’s behind us.”

Today, I’m going to Plant Society Day at Gerten’s in Inver Grove Heights, where I plan to ask some other experts about how they plan to garden in this extremely warm spring. I’ll report back tomorrow.

Are you doing anything differently because of the early spring?



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