Here in Oak Lawn we have had incredibly mild weather, indeed throughout the Chicago area we have. This is not what we expect in February. I think it’s because for the first time in decades we have a snow blower, which is why there is no snow here.
Sunlight is still infrequent here, but our temps have been warm enough to fool the birds and the Daffodils. The birds are twitterpated (my reference to Bambi is showing my age here), and the tops of the Daffodils are emerging from their beds. In many yards I’ve seen actual crocus blooms.
The problem is we surely have not seen the last of freezing temps. In order to protect your perennials and early bulbs, you need only to take a few steps.
If you have Daffodils or Tulips starting to emerge, cover the green tops that are showing with the mulch you put down in the fall. It’s as simple as that. What, you say you didn’t mulch last fall? Well get yourself to Home Depot or Lowes, you get the idea, and buy a bag or two of mulch. It’s still not too late. Yes, the tops of the Daffodils that have already emerged will turn brown after a freeze, but the plant itself will be ok. It will emerge again and bloom in April. I promise. As for the Crocus, it likes cooler temps so it too will be fine.
NEXT . . .
CHECK YOUR PERENNIALS
If you planted perennials last year, especially in the fall, the roots are probably not firmly set yet. You need to examine those perennials to look for visible roots. This is called Frost Heaving, which is the result of soil surfaces without mulch covering (whether it’s mulch you put down or leaves and needles from surrounding trees) and without snow covering. The soil will freeze and thaw repeatedly in wide temperature fluctuations, causing the roots to “heave” out of the soil. This is most common in areas with a lot of clay soil, which is us in Illinois and you all in Virginia (soil as red as any clay pot I’ve ever seen). Also the wide temp fluctuations describes our winter perfectly. So, we have the perfect conditions for heaving.
No worries, this too can be fixed. Gently place the plant back in the soil. Resist the urge to work the soil as you did when you first planted your perennial because working soil that is too wet destroys the soil structure, meaning no air pockets for the good bugs and no space for the roots to grow. You may need to add a little soil around the roots of the plant, now water it just a little and mulch it. Voila’ – you’ve saved your plant. Check ground covers planted in the fall too, as they have shallow roots and are vulnerable to heaving as well.
WHAT TO DO UNTIL SPRING?
One last note here – just because the climate is unseasonably warm for February doesn’t mean your ground is warm enough for you to work it like it’s Spring. The ground temp has to be at least 55 degrees. The air temp is above freezing right now, but the soil is not. If you really need to scratch that gardening itch, you can trim your trees or bushes, but do not work the soil yet.
What you can do is continue walking in the woods, or the parks, or around your neighborhood. Observe with a designer’s eye what strikes your fancy. Do you just love the waterfalls in the state parks? How does the tidy symmetrical garden make you feel vs. the lusty natural garden? Do you like hardscape (patios and arbors)? Do you need a path in your yard, front or back? Take notes and take pictures.
True Spring will be here soon enough and then you’ll have plenty of work to do. Until then, the lack of snow and warmer temps makes it easier for us to get out and walk the woods or hike the parks. ♥
The photos were taken last month at the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. The hike we took was down and then uphill but was only 2 miles so it was doable for a short hike. I’m the lady smiling next to my handsome hubby. The last photo, with the evergreen tree on the left, I took from my car window, with my phone, while on the Skyline drive that goes through the park. Yep, I couldn’t believe it either. You literally did not have to get out of the car to take in the breathtaking views. So, until we can soak up the sun, and make our own vit D, soak up the winter views, with or without crocus.