Garden Notes

Today, April 22, is Earth Day. April 22 had been designated Earth Day on April 22, 1970, thought to be the beginning of the modern environmental movement. It was eight years since the publishing of Silent Spring, the landmark book by Rachel Carson in 1962, which brought national and international awareness to the disruption of ecosystems by pesticide and herbicide use. Before that time, the interconnectivity of life was rarely considered, and little understood.

With the average date of the last frost upon us, it's time to take the risk and start buying and planting. This isn't a guarantee temperatures won't drop below freezing, but cold hardy perennials properly hardened off shouldn't skip a beat even if the temperature drops into the upper twenties. Let's see what Canyon's Edge Plants has in stock this weekend.

I'm still catching up on horticultural news of 2012. This post includes a few important hort-bits, easy to miss if one isn't out searching for it: a new release of the Plant Hardiness Map, official listing of the world's flora, a change in the procedure of naming new species, a link to a noteworthy essay on naming and finally, the top new plant species, including one named after a cartoon character.

Nearly every week, and sometimes daily, articles appear in the Environmental section of major newspapers about colony collapse disorder (CCD) and other pollinator and bird maladies. This year is no exception, continuing where it ended last year, with reports of massive bee disappearances and death, in some cases up to 40-50% of the bee hives used in agriculture pollination and production.

Spring is the time of year many gardeners amend their soils to improve organic content and soil structure. Although composted animal manures and composted plant material is considered to be the best soil amendment for general improvement of soil tilth, the use of a group of synthetic chemicals referred to as persistent herbicides gives rise to caution when procuring organic amendments. In particular, adding herbicide-exposed composted manure and other products to vegetable and ornamental beds can be devastating.

In advance of the article in this Sunday's Amarillo Globe-News reporting on the forecast of a continued drought, the Prairie Water Film Festival was held this weekend at the Don Harrington Discovery Center, sponsored by the Amarillo League of Women Voters. And to further punctuate the ravages of climate, the festival ended as the wind speed outside gusted to 50 miles an hour or more.

We are already an hour into Spring, arrived at just after sunrise at 8:02 am this Wednesday, March 20, 2013. After realizing we've reached the long awaited vernal equinox, I ran outside, braving the chilly air and cut a small bouquet of hyacinth, a violet cultivar of the Dutch hyacinth, Hyacinthus orientalis. Once the hyacinths bloom, I feel the gloom of winter has been dispelled.

Horticultural news rarely makes our local papers. Especially news regarding opportunities for Citizen Scientists. The American Gardener Magazine contains pertinent horticultural news one would not run across otherwise. I've summarized some opportunites for gardeners as citizen scientists and news about invasive plants from their 2012 magazines.

We are into another year and as in every year, we never quite know what we'll face. Plenty of sun and wind for sure, perhaps timely and average rainfall amounts. Possibly snow, hail, sudden temperature shifts, hopefully not anything worse. These are normal weather occurrences gardeners deal with nearly each and every year. If you haven't been as successful as you'd like when tackling the average conditions, your garden probably suffered under the more extreme heat and drought we've been under. I can't foretell the future, but most climatologists agree the trend is towards warmer average temperatures and less rainfall in our region for the next century.

Once again, rain was the topic that most dominated the gardening thought and conversation, and heat, coming in second place. Each year brings challenges, some new along with the old. With nearly twice the rainfall as in 2011, the Texas Panhandle was still far below our average. Luckily, sufficient, inexpensive supplementation of water is still available to help gardens survive during dry spells in Amarillo. Because of this, it was only at the end of the year, that I felt the impact of the drought crisis that affected the United States from the Mississippi westward.

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