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Explore our latest coverage of environmental issues, climate change and more.

Homeyer: Unnatural Weather

I was off gallivanting this year from mid-September till mid-October. I’d done my best to clean up my gardens before I left, knowing that we often have snow by mid-October. Truth be known, I didn’t do a very good job. But this year it really didn’t matter. Two months after my return the ground is still not frozen, and I continue to cut back flowers, pull weeds and harvest carrots, radishes and kale. I haven’t worried much about the lack of cold this year. Yes, fall-planted bulbs and garlic may send up a few green shoots. That’s not a problem – come spring, my bright blue and yellow crocus will bloom and the garlic will grow. And there are some positive aspects of all this late-season warmth.

First, any trees or shrubs you planted this year have had more time to get settled in. Roots continue to extend until the ground freezes. So the longer the ground stays warm, the more time the roots have to grow. And the more the roots grow, the less likely it is that new shrubs will be pushed up by frost.

Last winter we had a spike in the number of rodents due to snow cover that started early. Owls and hawks depend on hapless rodents for their daily dinners. But with deep snow, rodents like meadow voles kept scurrying around and having more babies under the protective cover of the snow.

The result of that baby boom in the rodent world was damage to many fruit trees. Hungry voles chewed bark off apple trees, often eating the bark right down to bare wood. And girdling a tree is a death sentence for it. This year, the owls should be fat and the rodents fewer.

The long, warm fall should also benefit our perennials and lawns, especially anything that’s still green.

Insects and ticks probably benefit from the warm weather, too. A severe winter tends to knock back the number of creepy crawlies, but we still have plenty of time to kill them off with sub-zero temperatures.

What we should hope for is a week or more of weather with temperatures well below freezing, followed by six inches of snow. Then we can hope for consistent cold and snow throughout the winter.

So the bottom line is this: our current weather may seem unnatural, but it’s good for some things – especially conversation at the post office!

Henry Homeyer is an author, columnist and a blogger at the
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