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12/21/2009

Changing Climate Affects Our Gardens


Ozarks Gardening
Copyright© 2009, Jim Long

Mistletoe has always seemed like a southern plant to me. It grows high up in the limbs of trees, usually in oaks and elms. I used to drive down into South-Central Arkansas to collect mistletoe to give to friends at Christmas. The assumption has always been that the climate here is too cold for this semi-parasitic plant to exist. The seeds are carried by birds which leave bird droppings on tree branches, and the mistletoe grows where it’s planted.

Just recently I discovered several bunches of mistletoe growing on the Arkansas-Missouri border. I’ve tromped through the woods in that area for three decades and have never seen any evidence of the plant until this year.



When I moved to the farm thirty years ago, I wasn’t able to grow figs or muscadines in my garden and now I grow both, in several varieties. And back then, when I moved to the farm, there weren’t armadillos to contend with, either. They first arrived at my place in 1991 and since that time, have traveled northward, the entire length of the state of Missouri and I’ve heard reports from friends in Des Moines, Iowa, who’ve seen armadillos there in the past two seasons.

Certainly there are those who refuse to believe our planet is warming nor that our milder seasons are anything other than a cycle. It becomes more difficult to accept that view when I have personally witnessed radical  changes in my own garden. I’ve moved from a Zone 6 gardener to a Zone 7a, which is significant in when and what I plant.

I observe cause and effect. We pollute more, faster, than any civilization in the earth’s history. We burn tires, trees, coal, fuel of all kinds and it all goes into the atmosphere. It doesn’t just disappear, it has an effect, on weather, on water sources and on what we breathe and eat.

For the first time ever, fire ants were found in Missouri this year. We’ve long believed those nasty little critters couldn’t survive our winters. We’d had regulations that prohibited plants with soil that wasn’t treated to kill fire ants, from being brought into the state. Oddly enough, it wasn’t infected plant soil that brought the destructive ants in. Instead, they hitched a ride in large bales of hay that were brought into the state for feed after last year’s ice storm. Once they arrived, the ants began colonizing areas, reproducing and making livestock and humans quite uncomfortable with their stings. It’s unlikely the ants will decide to move south. Once they are in an area, they will spread just like the armadillos have.

Like it or not, as gardeners we have to change some of the ways we garden. Planting early, using two crops a year of some things, being more vigilant for new insects and using better, safer controls of those, are all ways we will have to change.

Growing your own vegetables can be frustrating, sometimes challenging but always rewarding. Read what’s happening in my garden this week at http://jimlongsgarden.blogspot.comhttp://jimlongsgarden.blogspot.com. Happy gardening!

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