Saturday, April 28, 2012

April 27 Always Kills My Garden

What is it about the days around April 27 each year? Each year, extreme weather on that date kills my garden. Seriously.

The spring of 2010 was very warm, like this one. Everything bloomed early. Rainfall was generous, but not excessive.  As the end of April approached, most of the leaves on trees were out, and the flowers were  blossoming beautifully. My lilacs in particular looked awesome.
Snow smushes one of my lilac bushes on April 27, 2010.

Then, on April 27-28, I got 16 inches of wet, heavy snow. It collected on the leaves, and broke a lot of trees, flattened the flowers and smushed my lilac bushes almost flat on the ground.  It was a mess.

Three days later, the temperature was back up to near 80 degrees, and I was outside picking up the mess in shorts, stepping around waning snowbanks as I hauled the broken branches away.

On the bright side, the lilacs recovered nicely and even most of the flowers rallied.

The next year, 2011, spring ran a little later. Things were pretty much on schedule. Around April 27 things were starting to green up, but it was awfully wet after a snowy winter and a rainy early spring.

Then, on the night of April 26-27, thunderstorms raked over my property repeatedly. Rain gushed down in torrents, hail like so many icy bullets piled up in the heavier storms. The brook by the house roared. Finally, a culvert upstream became overwhelmed, and a wall of water swept across my lawn and gardens.
Rocks and mud cover my lawn after a
flash flood on April 27, 2011.

Luckily a stone wall I built in front of the house for decoration acted as a seawall, diverting the water from the house. Only a little water got into the basement. But as the water receded, I saw that my lawn was covered with gravel, rocks, sticks and other debris. Part of my driveway was washed away. A small spruce tree was somewhere downstream, and I could see a some of my flower bulbs hung up in the weeds downstream. It was another big mess to clean up.

This year, spring was early again after a remarkable, record hot March and early April. Leaves were coming out, and my flowers bloomed happily. Even stuff that comes up out of the ground later, like hostas and astilbe, were happily growing.

Now, here on the weekend of,  yes, April 27, it's destruction again. We're getting a three-night, hard freeze, with temperatures well into the 20s. We've had one night of the cold already, and two nights to come. I see this morning that my lilacs are wilted and shriveling.

Elsewhere, I tried to protect many of my plants by covering them with layers of compacted leaves from the compost pile, and tarps, and whatever else I can find. It's a lot of work for something that might not work, since I had to haul the leaves everywhere, I have to repeatedly cover and uncover the plants over the weekend, then clean up the mess next week. That will undoubtedly include all those leaves blown across the entire yard in the dry cold.
My sad attempts to protect a Korean lilac and my
peonies from a killing freeze, April 27, 2012.

I know I'm whining, because all I'm dealing with here is inconvenience, not destruction. In 2010, that snowstorm brought down trees on cars and houses in St. Albans, causing a lot of damage. In 2011, that flood damaged dozens of Vermont homes. And the storm system that caused the flood was the same one that caused  the worst tornado outbreak in the nation's history, killing hundreds of people. And this year's freeze is destroying the livlihood of so many orchard and vineyard operators.

Still, extreme damaging weather is disheartening for even a little gardener like me. I'd like to go back to normal weather in the spring and summer, but it doesn't look like it's in the cards for any of us in coming years.

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