The winter of our discontent

I was in the field today at our Southwest Michigan Research and Extension Center (SWMREC) so just a quick post and a couple of pictures.  Today is the last official day of winter but you’d never know to look outside. Our current temperature in East Lansing is 78 deg. F.  Our late winter warm up has officially reached historic proportions as we have blown by 1945 as the warmest winter in record in lower Michigan.  To give you an idea of how messed up things are the current temperature in Minneapolis, MN (77 deg.) is 21 deg. warmer than Los Angeles (56 deg.). 

While I hate the be the messenger of doom as Chicagoans enjoy fun and frolic at the beach, for many segments of horticulture what we’re watching unfold is a slow motion disaster.  Phenological development (bud-break, flowering etc.) is currently running almost a full month ahead.  Many important fruit crops such as plums and peaches have started to flower and the rest aren’t far behind.  Based on long-term records it is virtually certain that we will have several hard freezes before the weather warms up for good, meaning that many of these crops will be severely damaged if not destroyed entirely. So, if you’re in the Midwest or East, make the best of the good weather but recognize all good things must come to an end…

Plum crazy.  Plum blossoms at MSU SMREC, March 19, 2012

Just peachy.  Peach tree in bloom. MSU SWMREC, March 19, 2012.

5 thoughts on “The winter of our discontent”

  1. I think you are correct about a disaster in the making, sooner than later. Monday in Southern California where I come from my other received almost 3 inches of rainfall and the snow level was down to 3000′ on the coastal side of the mountains in places and 2000′ on the desert side. Interstate 8 was completely closed to traffic and now I believe this storm is heading your way if not there already.
    When I lived up in Anza, Ca we had a freak storm that came in June in the late 1970s and dumped 8 inches. No one had a garden that year. Or at least one that recovered.

  2. Kevin:
    Here in the Midwest we are truly in uncharted waters. We have never been this warm, this early for so long. I suspect we will see some things this spring that we haven’t seen before. right now the jet stream continues to send storms north but it’s a matter of time. Most landscape trees and shrubs can recover from some late frost damage but the tree fruit industry is really in a precarious place.

  3. Our blueberries (northern highbush) are blooming three weeks early.
    Four acres of potential disaster/no income. Plus just picked a tick off the dog. Wheee.

  4. Here in DC, the Cherry Blossoms were at peak last week and the festival starts today (and continues to Apr 27). By the end of the Festival, there won’t be a blossom (and, if we get a heavy rain, they won’t last till next weekend).

    This last weekend, I put hydrangeas in the ground that were all ready putting out leaves and flower buds. Looking around the neighborhood, everything is coming out early (inc’g stink bugs) this year but the last average frost date is not until mid-April for us. Does any one know if a hard frost will kill stink bugs? Cause that would be the only reason to wish for one …

  5. I’m very near Green Bay and my forsythia is blooming. That’s the sign here to apply crabgrass pre-emergent. It just doesn’t seem right so I’ll have to check soil temp. My fruit trees haven’t even leafed out yet so I might get lucky. The raspberries haven’t done anything either. The good thing for me this year is that I want to do some perennial bed renovation and I will be able to start this project much earlier as my yard clean-up will be done much earlier.

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