Stillwater News Press


February 18, 2012

In the Garden 02-19-12

People are interested in the weather. Storms fascinate some. Others’ interest in the weather is limited to whatever knowledge is necessary to carry on casual conversations.

Farmers place great importance in weather details, measuring rainfall, watching for late frosts, praying for rain before the well runs too low. Their livelihood depends on awareness of the weather.

Gardeners check the zone before buying a plant. This refers to the degree of cold a plant can tolerate. Many books now refer to hardiness zones and heat zones. A plant’s tolerance of heat can be as important to survival as its tolerance of cold. Developed in 1977 by the USDA, heat zones are determined by the number of days in a given year that the temperature climbs higher than 86 degrees.

Take the time to check on a plant’s tolerance of extremes. Even in moderate climates, occasional unusual weather is best expected rather than denied. Your garden plants are relying on you to consider their needs and create an environment of health for them.

Track the sun through the seasons. As the sun moves further north in the sky with the coming of spring, areas of your garden that remain shaded all winter will fall in the sun. Watch and notice not only where the summer sun falls, but notice the length of time and the intensity of the sun on different areas as the sun moves.

Lush new growth of spring is more susceptible to burning than the same growth a month later. The sun’s trip to the northern sky and a 100-degree day in late April or early May can spoil the looks of a plant through the summer.

Wind is the final piece of weather to observe before positioning plants. Some trees break in a strong winter wind while others tolerate winter wind, but resent the hot, drying winds of summer.

Natural and manmade structures can become windbreaks to the benefit or detriment of a plant. A solid barrier can cause an eddy of sorts a few feet beyond the break. A permeable windbreak such as another shrub or vine-laden fence will slow the wind enough to shelter tender plants in most locations.

A simple dime-store pinwheel can reveal seasonal patterns of frequency, duration and intensity of the wind.

The purpose of a garden is enjoyment, whether through work, meditation or a combination of both. What better way than to begin observing the way weather interacts with your specific piece of earth?

LeeAnn Barton, Stillwater, can be emailed at

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