Wisconsin weather, I have heard people tell me to just wait a few minutes and it will change. Just this week, we had rain and snow on the same day and now, extreme cold! I know there is no controlling the weather. We, as gardeners, do the best we can to maintain and grow our gardens whatever weather comes our way.
Here is a great garden prayer written in 1929 by Polish poet Karel Capek that we as gardeners might be able to relate to:
O Lord, grant that in some way it may rain every day, say from about midnight until three o’clock in the morning, but, you see, it must be gentle and warm so that it can soak in; grant that at the same time it would not rain on the campion, alyssum, helianthemum, lavender, and others which you know in your infinite wisdom know are drought loving plants-I will write their names on a bit of paper if you like-and grant that the sun may shine the whole day long, but not everywhere (not, for instance, on spirea, or on gentian, plantain lily, and rhododendron), and not too much; that there may be plenty of dew and little wind, enough worms, no plant-lice and snails, no mildew, and that once a week thin liquid manure and guano may fall from heaven. Amen.
Wouldn’t that be wonderful? But alas, this is not our reality. So, in response to Wisconsin weather, we must plan and manage our gardens for success in our climate. I will be walking you through the basics of Wisconsin climate to help you grow a successful garden.
The growing season is estimated date of the last killing frost in spring and the first killing frost in fall. The average growing season in Wisconsin is 150 days and can range from 126 days to 165 days. The average last day of killing frost in spring is May 11. The average first killing frost in fall is October 6. For more information see the following link: (www.wisconline.com/counties/Sheboygan/climate.html). This information can be instrumental in choosing the right vegetables to grow or when to plant your annuals. As you begin to think about the vegetables you want to grow this spring, look for information indicating the number of days before the fruit is ripe and can be harvested. For example, winter squash (pumpkins, acorn squash, butternut squash, etc.) will have harvest dates ranging from 75 days to 115 days.
Understanding our hardiness zone will help guide you in choosing the right trees, shrubs, and perennials for your garden. According to the USDA Hardiness Zone Map, most of Sheboygan County is zone 5A. This information has been refined over the years as data has been collected. For the most current information, see this link: (www.garden.org/zipzone/). The hardiness zone gives us information about the climate we live in. Knowing what planting zone you are gardening in can help you know choose plants that thrive in your garden. However, there are drawbacks. It is basic information at best. It does not account for the amount of beneficial snowfall in the dead of winter that helps blanket our gardens or years of temperature extremes.
Here is one additional thought on climate. In each of our yards we may have microclimates, and area that might be a low spot in your yard, a protected courtyard, or even a small garden space along the brick wall of your house. Charlie Mazza, Senior Extension Associate, Cornell University describes microclimates in this way; “A microclimate is the climate of a small area that is different from the area around it. It may be warmer or colder, wetter or drier, or more or less prone to frosts.” For those of you who are adventurous gardeners, you might be able to squeeze out an extra plant hardiness zone by either creating a microclimate.
Next week I will write about plant hardiness.
Happy gardening!