Paul and Nila Dowlearn-Owners of Wichita Valley Nursery. Paul’s recent books, “The Lazy Man’s Garden” and “Touch the Earth” are available at the Nursery, 5314 S.W. Pkwy, Wichita Fall, Texas.

This past week saw the completion of the Tour de France. The longest and most grueling bicycle competition in the world. This year that bike marathon was met with a record-breaking heat wave. Paris set a new record of 109(f) just a few days prior to the grand finale on Saturday. The riders were out there, somewhere, sweltering and pedaling toward the finish line.

Now 109 is merely a hot day in July here in Texoma, but in France, Germany, Switzerland, and the Netherlands that all saw 100+ lately, a hot day in July is more like 85. The weather guys say that particular heat bubble is on its way toward Iceland and Greenland now.

Right… So, Iceland, Greenland, Alaska, and parts of Siberia are already seeing unprecedented drought and heat. They are all seeing wildfires already. The kind of uncontrolled destructive fire we saw in California recently. Some folks have fans but nobody who lives in these northern latitudes has air conditioning. They haven’t ever needed it…. Until now!

Meanwhile, here in Texoma, we were basking in below average temperatures. People were actually saying things like “Nice day today.” I remember one morning my thermometer recorded a low of 60(f). Not a record low but getting mighty close. We all appreciated this rare break. Especially those of us who work outdoors on a daily basis. Summer is not over yet.

Unless we manage a really good rain in these last days of July we will come in well below average. This will be the first month in 2019 that we were not above average. So far we have been very lucky. However, this past week we saw a big jump in people bringing in those samples and pictures of yellow turning to brown leaves. Most think this is some kind of disease. “My tree is sick. What should I do?” The cure is put some fresh compost, mulch, and water deep and slow. Meanwhile you pray for rain.

We have a grape vine growing on the awning over our front door at Wichita Valley. Around the first week of July we saw the yellow turning brown scenario. A couple of our employees speculated that this must be some type of fungus. Not me, I have seen this many times before. The supposed malady started right up against the building where reflected heat is higher. It then spread (not unlike a fungus) outward until the entire upper part of the vine was totally defoliated (about 80%). Now, and without irrigation or any other intervention the entire vine is recovering with tiny new leaves growing all over. This grape vine had cast off all that lush tender growth from the cool, wet spring as a survival tactic.

The good news is that the new leaves growing back in a hotter, drier condition will be tougher and better able to withstand the climate. This is a prime example of what we in the biz call “hardening off.” So, the cure also includes a bit of patience, observation, and understanding. It would be nice if there were some miracle liquid or powder that would instantly turn this around, but such a thing does not exist. We live in a semi-arid environment so this should be considered normal behavior in native or well adapted plants. Some rain would help…

The honorable and venerable Robie Christy (Hotter N’ Hell 100) showed up at the nursery on one of those fine cool(er) days. He stated how nice it would be if we had this weather on the 22nd of August for our own internationally known bicycle marathon. I know that he knows as a veteran outdoorsman, things could turn off quite differently. For better or worse…

What does all this mean when the cool places are hot, and the hot places are not so hot? To this ole boy it means that the climate prediction folks who have been warning us for decades about climate change have been and undoubtedly are correct. It is upon us. So, the people in Alaska may have to buy air conditioners and dread the higher cost of electricity, as we do.

Our weather changes quickly so when your plants start dropping leaves look to the weather instead of some silver bullet you can purchase at a garden center. Plants have survived for hundreds of millions of years without any help from us. This is one way they have managed. We can help with irrigation and thoughtful use of compost and mulch. Those things we can gather and/or make ourselves. They are also among the most affordable items we sell if you don’t have the time or inclination.

I used the example of our grape vine. The yellow turning brown syndrome can be seen on all manner of plants that are favored by cooler and wetter conditions. The heat lovers? Well…, all of them are doing great right now. If your petunias are pooped, then get something else for the summer. Plenty of color to be had right now. Looking forward to the fall season and the best time to plant. Maybe just a few weeks away?... Or not. Come see us.

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