Christmas in July? Well not quite perhaps but signs of fall in July are being seen across the area which is rather troubling.
We had a mild winter, and after a few very warm days in March, the average garden was about 2 weeks ahead of schedule. That was maintained throughout spring, but now that summer is here and a drought, the plants and trees are getting things totally mixed up.
The first sign that things were romping ahead was the chrysanthemums – they were already putting out buds by July 4th, not September 4th. Traditionally the plants are trimmed back on Memorial Day and July 4th so that you get lots of new stems which in turn create lots of new buds and create a wonderful fall show. Buds are not supposed to be part of the mix in July and I didn’t trim mine back, so I now have delightful fall colors alongside summer flowers.
Then I was chatting to my homesteading neighbors, and apparently they planted pumpkin seed a little early and joked about getting pumpkins for July 4th – he missed that by about 2 weeks, and proudly extracted a pumpkin from the dying vines to give to me. I hope the pumpkin farmers are not having such a problem because lots of kids and homes enjoy decorating with, and eating, pumpkins in fall. I was under the impression that things like cooler temperatures and shorter nights were the factors that prompted fruit set in pumpkins but obviously early planting and hot dry conditions can stress the plant enough to produce in July.
More troubling that early flowers and fall squash, is that some trees are already changing into fall colors and the leaves are dropping – giving lawns a definite fall look. My gut feeling is that the trees are reacting to a temporary stress of heat and drought, and will recover fine next year. Trees tend to take 3 years to react to an environmental factor such as drought, but a lot of that data is based on mature trees not saplings so it will be interesting, from a purely academic point of view, to see what the effect is next year.
We have rain – a whopping 80-% chance – in the next 24 hours and hopefully that will do more than just refresh the garden but actually reach some of the root zone of trees and shrubs.