What happens to the May flowers when the April showers never turn up? That’s what I wondered this April in Lucille’s Garden – day after beautiful sunny day passed by with no hint of rain. I faithfully watered the beds, but the dry days and warm nights were hard on our cool- season greens. Plants like spinach need temperatures between 45° and 68°F to germinate; arugula likes it in the chilly 40s and 50s. So they were reluctant to appear in the garden this year. 

On the other hand, my tomatoes thrived in the greenhouse, leaving me to wonder whether I should just toss the spring plans aside and move right into summer. Luckily in the last weeks of April, a break in the temperature – and some very welcome rain – turned the season around.  So now, as I walk through the beds, I see the familiar faces of radish, mustard, endive, and beets peeking up at me where before was just bare soil.

I’ve often been thinking of climate change in the garden this month as I adjust plans for a dry spring. How much depends on the once reliable weather, cold winters followed by cool, damp springs, warm sunny summers, and predictable autumns. Gardening in the next 50 to 100 years may look very different than it has up until now, and everything from the trees we plant to the food crops we grow will change.

Adaptability is the name of the game. I’m lucky to have a greenhouse, a grow light tower, and two beautiful cold frames to work with. These microclimates help adjust to what is happening outside in the garden. For example, warm-weather crops may be willing to germinate in the cold frames earlier than in the ground if I close the glass cover and let the box warm in the sun. Cool- season greens may, for this year at least, be happier to get started under the grow lights in the building rather than directly in the garden.

I feel like I can take a breath now that the last few days of April have dawned cool and misty. Every bed has been seeded and planted with our cool-season favorites: snap pea ‘Opal Creek’ and ‘Sugar Magnolia’ twine up trellises, broccoli ‘Purple Sprouting’ and cauliflower ‘Orange Flame’ dot the beds, Brussels sprout “Jade Cross’ and radish ‘Rat Tail’ have unfurled their green leaves, hinting at a harvest to come. 

A gardener’s season is made up of these moments; worry over the weather and reassurance when nature comes through. For this year, at least, I’ve found deep relief in gray skies and rain. So stop by for a visit next time you’re at Tyler. No matter the weather, I’d love to show you the garden.

Senior Gardener, Lucille’s Garden
Tyler Arboretum