It’s official: the USDA has changed our climate chart once again. This was done because the average low temperatures have increased, resulting in many regions in the U.S. changing their growing zones. Unlike previous changes, this data was compiled over 30 years. The new map can be viewed at: http://planthardiness.ars.usda.gov/PHZMWeb/
My area is now squarely in the “Upper 7″ range. I have noticed that many of the plants which used to be marginal in my yard have not had much winter die-back this year. This is very recent though, and I am not convinced we have really changed that much, since we had an incredibly snowy and frigid winter just two years ago.
This season the rosemary, oregano, sage and lemon balm remained thriving in my herb garden all winter, and the chives were only dormant for a couple of weeks. In the past, I would have been without fresh herbs for at least a couple of months. Here is a tip you can try which can extend the growing time quite a bit: Place a terracotta pot over the herb during cold nights. The pot will hold enough warmth to keep the herb from freezing, while allowing excess moisture to escape. I once kept cilantro (which is very tender) growing for two months this way, even in the snow!
I am already seeing lots of new growth on the ornamental grasses which I just finished trimming back. Tip: After you have trimmed them down, rake through them with gloved hands (heavy duty gloves — I don’t want anyone getting cuts!). This will help remove the dead leaves and debris which if left behind, can make its way into the crown of the plant, choking the new growth.
The pansies which I planted last fall have been blooming all winter. Normally, they would have died back to the ground and re-sprouted new growth just this month. I am also seeing the strawberry plants sending out new leaves. It will only be a short time now until we have some on our plates, barring any late season storms.
I hate to sound selfish, but I do love the milder weather this year so far. I am much farther along with my usual winter gardening this season. Tip: We are now at the correct time of year to apply a crabgrass preventer on the lawn. It can be applied anytime between February and April, but must be down before any 80 degree days to create a barrier.
In years past, when we have had mild winter weather, we would be in for a really wet spring, often with ice storms. We will see! It is always something different around here.
Until then, you know where you can find me — I’ll be out in the garden!