Winter's Silver Lining

This winter has been a long and trying one, polar vortices and all. The entire country has experienced colder than average temperatures and here in the suburbs we have had more snow than we knew what to do with. 

So as the calendar marks the first day of spring and the days grow longer, our hopes are high and our spirits ready for some warm weather. Even as the birds start chirping and the snow melts away, many gardeners are wondering what this crazy winter did to our gardens and what type of summer we can expect.

Though it’s hard to imagine, especially thinking back to that -40 degree day in January, that there is any silver lining to the extremes we experienced this winter, but there are.  Getting to spring seems like reward enough after that winter, but there are bonuses in store for us for surviving that winter.

The first bonus is the killing off impatiens downy mildew. This disease began to pop up in the Midwest during the past two summers. It spread through the air and once the soil was infected with it, it would remain infected for at least three years. It was pretty devastating out there for anyone with a lot of shade in their yard, but there is good news.

Experts said we would need at least five nights of below zero temperatures in order for this disease to be killed off in the soil, and I think it’s safe to say that we have had those nights--days even! So the impatiens downy mildew should be gone from your yard if you had it in the past. 

Another bonus to this winter is the snow. While it is not fun to shovel every other day, the large amount of snowfall we have had actually helps insulate the perennials we have in our yards. With the ground being insulated, hopefully the cold temperatures will not have hit our plants as they are dormant over the winter, and we will see them begin to sprout back to life this spring.  There may, however, be some loss as there is any year, but hopefully this snow helped to prevent anything major.

Finally, the cold temperatures may have helped kill off a lot of allergens and invasive insects.  The past few years, allergy sufferers have experienced some bad seasons due to the fact that our winters didn’t get cold enough to kill everything off as they should.  This year, it is safe to say that it got cold and while our allergies will still bother us, hopefully it won’t be as bad.

As for insects, experts are saying that these cold temperatures may have put a dent in the population of invasive species such as the emerald ash borer. These bugs have been wreaking havoc on our ash trees and spreading around the country quickly.  While they may have been insulated while burrowed inside trees during the winter, there is a chance that these cold temperatures have affected their population. (For more information on how ash borer were affected by the winter, check out this story from NPR)

So while we shiver thinking back to those cold days many of us hid inside and the schools were cancelled, know that it may have been well worth it. Less bugs, allergens and plant diseases in a garden is always good.

Christian Goers