We tend to look at plant-tending in basic ways: light, water, and soil. However important these are, if we do not look at how plants interact with the climate, it will be difficult to make a factual conclusion when problems occur.

When we are familiar with our climate, we can observe how weather and seasonal changes affect the plants, and make preparations to assist our vegetation through the harshness of weather extremes.

Let’s say we are prepared for this winter by winterizing our irrigation systems. It turns out to be warm and dry winter. The plants still need water around twice a month by a snow or rain to help the roots contract and expand with the freezing and thawing of the soil. If we are aware that it has been dry and unseasonably warm for a couple of weeks, then we will know to check how moist the soil is around the root ball, and possibly go around watering with a garden hose.

With warm temperature swings in late winter, trees and shrubs can be tricked to come out of dormancy too early. Winter mulching can keep the roots a consistent temperature to help trees and shrubs stay in dormancy.

Late freezes in spring can ruin fruit set on trees and cause newly emerged foliage to freeze, turning black. Observing a late freeze in your own yard and noticing how the different areas are affected will help you discover areas that stay warmer or colder (micro climates) within the yard. One can then plant the trees and shrubs susceptible to late freezes in the warmer areas.

Knowing some basics about the climate where the plant grows natively, we can have a better idea how the plant will grow here, and attempt to emulate the native climate with micro climates in our own yard. Japanese maples are native to a country surrounded by water. The constant presence of moisture keeps a more consistent temperature which is a much different climate from our own. We can anticipate Japanese maples may struggle with the drier climate in the coldest and hottest days. A shaded protected area will shelter the maple from the dry hot winds and full exposure to the cold. Supplemental watering will make up for the difference in moisture.

Prescottonians are mostly likely already mindful of our climate since the weather can dictate what plans we make. It’s as easy as connecting what you know about our climate to the plants in your own yard.

Tyler Kirckof is an Arizona-certified nursery professional at Prescott Valley Nursery, 6195 Highway 69, Prescott Valley, Arizona, (928) 772-0878.


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