What a Mild Winter Means

| 1/14/2012 12:31:42 AM

Tags: flooding, mild, winter, gardening, farming, permaculture, insects, pests, Jason Akers,

 When we moved further south and west this year I mentioned to my wife that if this year was as snowy and cold as it was last year I was going to be very upset!  As if I could do anything about it!

I love the mildness of this winter.  We've had days in the 70's and up until just a few days ago here in Kentucky we hadn't had a real snowfall.  I didn't really think about the true consequences of the mild winter until I read the garden column in the Chicago Tribune (online of course).  In a recent Q/A, a reader wrote in to ask just that:  "What does a mild winter mean?".  The columnist answered well but dedicated most of the answer to the pretty flowers you might find adorning an upscale home in Chicago.  I don't think the answer was comprehensive enough.

So I started thinking about true consequences for us...you know, the homesteaders.  Other than some nice weather to get our work done what will the results be?

1.  More insects - whether you call them pests or simply realize they are part of the world we inhabit, there very likely will be more bugs this year.  Now there are some exceptions to my prediction. 

If you live in a part of the country where clay soil is prevalent then you will see more.  If you live in area with sandy or silt soil or loam you likely will see slightly more. 

Here's the logic.  Insects overwinter in most cases through migration or freeze avoidance.  Migration is pretty explanatory but there are a good deal of insects that evolution has smacked on the head - they don't migrate.  Instead they burrow into the soil and lay eggs as deep as possible.  A mason bee, for instance, digs a hole, lays an egg, provisions the nest with pollen, then seals it off with mud.  If everything goes right the larvae will hatch, eat the pollen, pupate and emerge in early spring.

Ed Rollins
1/15/2012 12:39:57 AM

My grandfather used to say "Averages are averages. If you have a dry summer, you will have a wet winter. If you have a warm winter, you will have a cool summer. Nature will balance." He of course was talking about how things will be, if we don't screw with them. The increase in insects will of course include their predators. The decrease in some fruits and vegestables will also incude increases in others. Let things be, but observe none the less. If we are having a warm winter I would plan for a cooler summer and plant accordingly. Slower bolting lettuce and great cole crops... YES!

Jason Akers
1/14/2012 10:16:09 PM

That's why I use the terms likely and possible. There are some laws that are immutable though. The fact that insects lay enough eggs to survive some amount of kill and the fact that less snowfall means less runoff in spring from higher areas isn't outsmarting mother nature its common sense. The sun still rises in the east and sets in the west.

1/14/2012 2:41:52 PM

The day we can outsmart or beat Mothernature for any signifigant amount by trying figure out what will take place because of one seasons weather events, is the day we beat the casino or stockmarket.

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