Climate

Sunshine, precipitation, heat, cold, seasonal variations, altitude; all are critical considerations when planning and maintaining a successful garden. Knowing which plants do best in your climate, which conditions encourage growth, and how drought and other weather changes can affect what and how you grow is essential to wise gardeners. We discuss the issues — from shade and frost-tolerant plants to heat and drought-resistant gardens — important to every grower.

Drought, Corn and Genetic Engineering

GMO CornDrought has been big news this summer, no more so than regarding its effect on America’s corn crop. If there’s a silver lining, it’s that it has put renewed emphasis on corn raised for energy production (ethanol) and the amount that goes into making high-fructose corn syrup with all its connections to obesity. The down side? What about genetically engineered corn that resists drought?

This article in The Washington Post and a related blog post on its “Wonk Blog” tells us something we might have guessed: Monsanto has developed a so-called drought-tolerant corn. We’re reminded of the dictum that’s been bandied about the last several years: Never let a good crisis go to waste. Monsanto, apparently, has taken that to heart. It goes without saying that the claim to drought resistance is something of a stretch.

Is there a silver lining to these articles? Scroll down through the Wonk Blog and find some doubters (enter the Union of Concerned Scientists – PDF). (more…)

Green Roofs Sprout Over U.S. Cities

Roof Top GardensInterest in green roofs (pun warning) continues to grow, especially in urban centers. Their benefits, both environmental and aesthetic, include savings on energy use, thus reducing the impact on global warming (especially in urban areas), helping to control rain water runoff thus reducing loads on storm sewage systems, and providing locally-grown produce to urban markets. “Green roof” is a general term that includes “white roofs,” those that reflect sunlight thus saving cooling costs; “blue roofs,” those that retain water and control runoff; “solar roofs” that heat water or generate electricity, and “living roofs,” those covered with soil and planted, a practice that both insulates and impedes runoff.

Living roofs — especially those planted with edibles — may be the next big thing but the practice is actually quite old. We recall a diorama at the Nebraska Historical Society that showed a “soddy,” a home entirely built of sod. As we remember it, there was even a cow grazing on top of the house. (more…)

USDA Updates Hardiness Zone Map

USDA Zone MapDid you miss it? Last January, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), in conjunction with Oregon State University’s Prism Climate Group (a great site for those interested in climate), updated their “Plant Hardiness Zone Map.” The map includes new features which should make it easier to use:

“For the first time, the map is available as an interactive GIS-based map, for which a broadband Internet connection is recommended, and as static images for those with slower Internet access. Users may also simply type in a ZIP Code and find the hardiness zone for that area.”

The new map can be found here. And yes, there has been a general revision because of new climate data: (more…)

Warm Winter Confusion

Winter BlossomsHow will the mild, dry winter experienced in many parts of the country and Canada effect plants? Links from around the country suggest that mother nature is confused, something we doubt. It’s us humans who are usually the ones confused. Mother Nature always seems to know what she’s doing even if it’s different than what we’re used to. In New York State, gardeners are worried that late snows after dry winter months will endanger tulip and other bulb shoots as well as early blossoms on fruit trees. A Raleigh, N.C. nursery expects the warm winter will affect the number of peony blossoms. Peonies need a minimum number of cold dormant days to flower. On the other hand, the nursery expects a banner year for magnolia blossoms.

(more…)

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