The promise and frustration of an early spring

Now that we have finished the first six months of the year, I feel compelled to report on my observations and future forecasts for the summer. It has been an interesting season so far, to say the least.

If you can, remember back to our winter. Other than a week of below freezing temps, it was relatively mild. I can always tell how cold it got by the number of blooms on my wife’s Ayesha hydrangea — it is loaded this year. As predicted, El Nino brought us lots of rain and above normal temperatures.

The biggest result of this pattern was a very early spring. It seemed as though everything was about a month ahead of schedule. Dogwoods bloomed in April instead of May; I was harvesting blueberries in June instead of July and the commercial cherry growers recorded their earliest harvest ever. My potatoes are already blooming, the broccoli has gone to seed and we just finished off the pea crop (which probably should have been picked a couple weeks ago).

The early spring also meant that I had to start watering sooner than I would have liked. Despite the 10 inches of rain in March and the scattered showers in May and June, our soils are very dry, especially where there are underlying tree roots. After last summer’s heat and drought, I hope that most of us have learned that our landscapes will benefit from supplemental irrigation. The heavy rains certainly put us in better shape than this time last year, but if you put a shovel in the ground you might be surprised how dry it really is. Plan on dragging a hose around this summer if you want to protect your landscape investment.

A mild winter and early spring has also brought more bugs. I saw young grasshoppers last week in the field across the street, which is unheard of considering that in some years we have none due to our mild summers. On the up side, more bugs mean more pollinators and more food for the birds. For the first time ever, I had a Monarch butterfly fly through one of our greenhouses (who knows where it came from or where it was going). It’s important to remember that bugs are an essential part of the ecosystem and learning to coexist with them, to some degree, is a good idea.

If I was to sum up the year so far, I would describe it as starting out promising and ending up frustrating. After being teased with several gloriously sun drenched days in April and May, we have now been tortured with consecutive rainy weekends. It is so easy to forget that our summers are rarely consistently sunny and warm until July. The standing joke is that summer starts on the Fifth of July in the Northwest. If spring came early and everything in the garden is a month ahead of schedule, shouldn’t we be justified in expecting summer to be here early too?

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