Wednesday, December 13th, 2006...7:08 pm

Global warming and gardening?

I received the following questions from Jen:

Are there any plant related reasons to worry or any precautions to take about the unseasonably warm November and December we’ve had on the East Coast so far this year? Is the weather going to mess up the natural cycles of native trees and plants? I’m mainly concerned because I see buds on some trees already.

Here’s my answer.

Don’t confuse seeing buds on trees with the warmth of the season or climate change. Many trees and shrubs set buds in the fall and have done this all the time. You may not have noticed these buds before but are noticing it now because the weather is so warm and you are out in your garden more.  Or you notice it because the buds are opening and flowering now.
Still more and more scientists are concerned about the global climate changes.
The Garden Lady is not knowledgeable enough about the climate changes that are happening to give a really good answer to your long term question. Al Gore’s movie speaks about some of the problems, such as insects that are living in areas that didn’t support them when we had colder winters.  There is talk about perhaps changing the Zones Chart for Gardeners, but this hasn’t happened yet.  You use the zone charts to determine which plants will grow successfully in your area. Scientists will have to study what is going on and we will have to wait for their recommendations.
Horticulturists are discussing this issue here and here.

People, like you, who are concerned should keep logs of the changes you see in your garden to corroborate what is happening, as they are doing in England. 
The Garden Lady did ask this question of a leading NJ Horticulturist who said that in the short run, there is nothing that we can do. Plants and trees are going a bit crazy and are flowering because they think spring has arrived. In my garden, the primroses were in bloom. The plants and trees that are blooming now will probably have fewer flowers next spring. And this spring and summer, you may find that you will have success growing plants in your garden that only grew in warmer zones. 
At this point in time, there is nothing to worry about the warmth of the season affecting your garden. And there is nothing that I know that you can do.
Just try to follow the best ways to individually cut back on the gases that cause global warming to halt what is going on so that the global warming doesn’t get worse. Things like cutting back on gas guzzling autos and biking or walking more can help.
Should you notice anything strange happening in your garden, like unusual insects or diseases on your trees, contact your agricultural agent or your Master Gardener Office to see if this is some problem that can be helped.

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