Local green thumbs sow spring wisdom
By Jim Bucher
So, is it me or has winter passed us by again? Could it be a temporary weather pattern or “climate change?”
Seems like as a kid, we were out gallivanting in the snow on a regular basis from November through March.
This year, as snow blowers, snowsuits, shovels, and gloves remain dormant, we all are wondering, where is the white stuff?
The first-warning storm centers in local TV news departments must be in withdrawal over this—nothing to panic us with during the winter months.
And don’t get me started on area ski slopes. Most have shuttered for the season.
Right now, my tulips are sprouting and magnolia tree buds are popping out. And is that a fly I see? Already?
My friend Ginny, who’s a bit of a green thumb, says, “Well, my lilac bushes are blooming and a little flowering Japanese tree has a bud out. If it gets cold and windy, afraid they will not bloom again. Haven’t seen this happen in years.”
Which brings me to my next question. What does all this mean for area farmers—and us?
John Friedline, past president of the Montgomery County Agricultural Society, weighs in, saying, “The rains in January and February actually were a blessing. Last year, we were still below normal, far as precipitation. Now, we’re pretty much back on track, as far as moisture.”
John, who raises cattle, says this crazy weather is a bit confusing to his herd.
“Animals are smart. In Ohio they adapt to the freezing and warm conditions and, like us, are susceptible to colds. They enjoy the different seasons—this year, though, not so much,” he says.
“Far as crops, nothing to fret over. Most don’t plant corn until April 5, then soybeans on the 20th. We should be in good shape.”
My former classmate at Dayton Christian High School, Jim Fulton, now owner of Fulton Farms in Troy, says the warm temperatures will bring some unwanted guests. Or should I say pests?
“You think we had stinkbug problems in the past, just wait,” Jim says. “Be prepared also for more than normal [amounts of] flies, mosquitos, and other insects. Not enough cold to kill them off.”
Was it just two years ago when my attic was invaded by stinkbugs?
I bet you had the same issue, shout-thinking or shouting-out-loud, how the flip did they get in my house? Ah, something to look forward to this summer.
Fulton grows strawberries, pumpkins, sweet corn, and Christmas trees. All of them look good at press time, but in a farmer’s life, the “f-word” is always in the back of the mind. Yes, “f” as in “freeze.”
“It’s pure panic—a hard freeze could hurt us,” Jim says, “but strawberry buds aren’t out yet, so that is a good sign.”
Sweet corn is a different animal—or should I say plant? Rising temps raise additional worries.
“We expect more ear worms and the dreaded European corn borer. Not good,” he says.
These nasty pests damage ears and stalks of corn by chewing tunnels that, basically, cause plants to fall over.
Per Wikipedia, the corn borer was first reported in 1917 in North America. Since its discovery, the borer has spread north into Canada and westward in our country to the Rocky Mountains. Think we can add them to the travel ban?
Jim says with properly treated crops there should be little to no effect.
Every June, the Troy Strawberry Festival rolls around, and Fulton supplies most—if not all—of the delectable, yummy fruit. He says not to worry.
“We’ll have plenty, but there’s always a bit of anxiety with a possible freeze,” he says. “I’m betting we’ll be OK.”
Fulton says the weather patterns the past few years have been a bit strange, to say the least, but it’s all part of farming—sometimes a bit of a crapshoot.
“It is a bit weird, though,” he considers. “I have peach and apricot trees at my house for personal consumption and they’re in full bloom. Plants are confused, and I am sometimes, too,” he adds with a laugh.
So, is it time to put away the salt, shovels, and scrapers? Or is it the kiss of death? Like the old TV margarine commercial would say, “It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature.”