Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Battle Begins

     Part of what I provide clients is an all-organic lawn service for those with small children or pets -- or who just hate the idea of filling their yards with chemicals. More about this down the road. For now it is enough to know that the only organic weed killer is pre-emergent. It does not kill established weeds. It only kills weed seeds when they germinate. Therefore timing is important. Spread too early or too late, the stuff is considerably less effective. One indicator that the time is right is the sight of crocus in bloom.

     What struck me a few days ago, after all my rantings about global warming, is that spring might actually come early this year. If bulbs are popping up, other plants are stirring as well, including weeds. It never occurred to me that I would actually have to start work in February. The weed killer is corn gluten, and I had used up every bag I had last fall. Last year's supplier had since gone belly up, and I had not been in touch with most of my clients since December.

     Pretending not to panic, I lurched to the phone on Thursday morning. I found a supplier, who told me I had exactly 3 minutes to make an order if I wanted to make the next shipment. I was able to pick up the shipment the following day and notify my clients the day after that. This morning I found the first crocus bloom in my yard.

     Who says there is no suspense in landscaping?

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Tennis Anyone?

Oops! I  spoke too soon. It is supposed to get to 52 degrees today. This is turning into an unbelievable winter. Since December 1 over 35 days have experienced highs over 40 degrees. A number of observations can be made about this:

     The Farmer's Almanac is once again wrong. It had predicted an exceptionally severe winter. But we can be assured that the superstitious will forget this fact by April 1 so that they can believe in next year's predictions.

     What we are feeling also makes the global-warming-deniers sound more and more like holocaust deniers. Since watching the ice caps melt and noticing the decline in the polar bear population does not seem to work, maybe playing tennis in Chicago in January will help. There are none so blind as those who will not see.

     I grew up 230 miles due west of Chicago. I had a paper route when I was about 12 years old. The first January I had it the low temperature on one day reached -50 degrees. Average winter temperatures in Iowa are about 10 degrees colder than they are here. Still, how many days do we get that even hit 0 any more?

     Over the last fifteen years or so I have noticed that more and more plants that once were "borderline" in Chicago now thrive here, especially on the south side. My admittedly anecdotal observations have now been reinforced by the US Department of Agriculture. They have just published a new hardiness zone map. In it much of the US has moved up half a zone. that includes us in Chicago. We have gone from 5b to 6a. This is good news for those of us who want to see more hydrangea and rhododendron species and more flowering plants in general. It is not such good news for plants happy in zone 4 who need a good blast of cold air in winter to stay healthy and propagate.

     Meanwhile my bulbs are popping up once more. I hope they have some energy left by March and April.