Small Talk about Weather

Well so far, I’ve told you a lot about my past and where my passion for gardening comes from. Now it’s time to get into some of the good stuff, like plants, soils, pruning, watering, and the most important thing I must start with is the weather.

Every time you meet someone new or maybe that person you don’t know all that well, the conversation always turns into, “what’s the weather supposed to be like”? “I heard it’s supposed to snow an inch or two”. “Well, I heard it’s supposed to turn to rain and not get that much”. I think if you were to look up the word ‘weather’ in the dictionary, it would be defined as “the most important subject when conversing in small talk.”

All small talk revolves around what the weather is going to be like. Is it going to be hot, cold, snow, rain, be windy or nice like San Diego, California, which is 70 and sunny by the way, yes, every day. When your office is outdoors, the weather is the most important topic of the day to discuss and is no longer considered small talk. It is discussed at every morning meeting. We’ve even nicknamed people like “Doppler Dave”, whom I used to love working with. He was also called ‘Turf Dave’ because he was as the name says, our turf guy at Stan Hywet.

So the weather when you are working outdoors will determine your entire day and exactly what you will accomplish out in the garden. We always say in the horticulture world that you must be ready to change directions in an instant and what you had planned to do a week ago on Tuesday, may not be what you will do at all this week. I always keep a running list of things that I want to accomplish and then dependent on the weather, I will decide what I will actually do.

I’m fascinated by people that have absolutely no clue as to what the weather is supposed to be like and then say that they don’t even watch the weather. I’m shaking my head right now as I type. I guess when you just get into your SUV and drive to the office to a building where there are air conditioning and heat, it really doesn’t make a difference to them what the weather is going to be like.

Weather will determine what clothes I put on for the day and how many layers I will need, which boots and gloves I will wear and most importantly what I will do. If it is too windy or too hot, then spraying for weeds and insects is a big no-no. Do we need to water plants today? Well, maybe not since it’s been raining for 40 days and 40 nights. Should we put down some granular fertilizer? Well yes, it’s supposed to rain in the next two days and that’s when it is the optimum time to do that.

I think that the weather is the one great thing about being in the gardens. It can change up everything that horticulturists do, and I think it keeps us from being bored. At least it does for me.

Another thing that weather determines is when plants will start to emerge and when they will bloom. Every year it is a little bit different, oh but is it really? Plants will leaf out or bloom at the same time every year according to how many ‘Degree Days’ they have had.

The degree days are the same every year for each plant and insect that emerges. This is called phenology and it is “the study of cyclic and seasonal natural phenomena, especially in relation to climate and plant and animal life”.
I fell in LOVE with phenology during school and it became a very important ‘weather’ tool when I’m out working. It allows me, as a horticulturist, to be able to pre-plan the arrival of insects that have been problematic in the past within the landscapes that I care for. This is all part of staying ahead of problems within the garden. I follow “The” Ohio State College’s webpage: www.oardc.ohio-state.edu/gdd/

Their Growing Degree Days Chart is simple to use. All you need to know is the zip code of the property you are working at and a chart will pop up and tell you exactly when different trees and shrubs bloom, and when certain insects will appear. In school, I knew the formula as to how to calculate degree days by the weather temperatures, but who needs to do that when Ohio State makes it so much easier. I have used this chart for the past several summers and have had great success in either preventing an outbreak with a preventative measure or by watching for the pest and then deciding if it is bad enough to spray with insecticides.

Look it up on the web and follow it. I check it about once per week and keep an eye on what day it’s at and what to watch for in the garden. As of this writing on February 8th, it is already at 11 days here in my zip code. At 34 GDD (Growing Degree Days) the Silver Maple will bloom. Not the greatest tree, by the way, but it will be a touch of spring! Till next time, think green!!