Gardening has been rather low-key in my area of northern Colorado this week. Although I am located on the high plains, heavy smoke at time and ash and charcoal fall from the mountain forest fires are keeping many people inside. It is disturbing to see the billowing smoke to the west and realize that it means destruction of many acres of forest lands and wildlife habitat and even worse, homes and gardens of people who lived in this beautiful area. Likewise ash and charcoal on the ground remind us that the fire is near. During dry weather, the plains may have grass fires but without large stands of trees, we generally only have ash and smoke from forest fires.
As is typical of many wildfires, weather plays a crucial part. High temperatures, winds and dry conditions are fueling the fire while cooler temperatures, calm air and high humidity or rain are usually the edge that can bring it under control. Let’s hope for a change in the weather that can change the outlook on fires.
While a fire is a drastic weather related condition, gardeners and farmers well know how weather can seriously impact their efforts. Just prior to the fire starting (which is attributed to lightening) we had serious hail in this area. Most crops and vegetables are small enough to recover at this point although in some areas there were major loses in truck crops. Trees also took a beating and lost branches of pencil size. Wind the following night revealed more damage as wilted branches caught in the trees came down requiring a second clean up. Small fruits such as apples and cherries were damaged as well as those with large leaves, rhubarb notably. We can expect the yields to be lower.
Although we all hate to lose our gardens, in a dry climate, trees are seen as investment, in time, money and water. If a choice must be made, saving one’s trees may be the priority. Sadly due to their size, they are difficult to protect.
Besides requiring watering in the high plains area, the trees are challenged by hail, occasional high winds, primarily in late winter and heavy snow in fall or spring. Last fall two back to back snowstorms prior to leaf fall broke many trees and the damage is still noticeable. A late spring snowstorm after leaves have emerged has the same effect.
When the snows fall, many people go out with brooms or other tools and knock off snow to lighten the load on trees and prevent breakage. Watering trees is of course a part of their maintenance. Trees that do not receive adequate water are more prone to disease and breakage. Strategic pruning of trees helps prevent some breakage. The hail and wind are just challenges to deal with and clean up after. We gardeners are all trying in their own way to improve nature. It seems whenever we go too far and believe that we can control the weather, we get stern reminders. We can only deal with the weather.