I received a newspaper article in today's mail from my sister in England. The headline is "A watery grave for our wildlife" and the story documents the sad conditions existing in the south of England.
Following the wettest year on record, sheep and cattle are fighting to survive, many species of butterflies have disappeared and mammals such as moles, weasels, rabbits and voles are drowning in flooded tunnels. Profuse rainfall has produced good crops of hay, but the fields are too waterlogged to mow.
Reading this brought home to me just how dependent we are on the weather. Not only gardeners, but all people, are at the mercy of prevailing conditions at their own spot on the globe.
I have known people who suffer from seasonal affective disorder and sink into spells of depression during the winter when they mostly are housebound and deprived of sunlight. To some extent, I think most of us have a trace of this and feel more cheerful and active on a sunny day.
Many scientists have predicted extreme weather conditions would become more common due to climate change. Although it seems foolish to attribute occasional floods, storms, heat waves and blizzards to climate change (they have always been with us, if not so widely reported), it does seem conditions are changing worldwide, for whatever reasons.
Wind damage is common in the garden, with fast-growing trees such as silver maple, box elder, poplar and black locust most often affected. Wind also can damage growing crops by inhibiting pollination, eroding good soil, spreading fungal spores and sandblasting seedlings and plants.
Hail is an obvious year-round hazard, with some destruction so severe that crop regrowth is impossible.
While moderate snow is a good insulator, a heavy covering of ice or heavy, wet snow can damage woody plants, snapping twigs and stems.
Flooding can do more than the obvious waterlogging that happens as pores in the soil become filled with water instead of air, depriving plant roots of oxygen. The vegetable garden is affected with cracked tomatoes and melons and split tree fruits, carrots, beets and radishes.
High temperatures can cause plant death and injuries such as sunscald, permanent wilting and metabolic imbalance. The thermal death point - 130 degrees - is when the living material in plant cells is destroyed, but plants will stop growing well before that and permanent or temporary wilting will take place.
Alternate freezing and thawing may cause patches of soil to expand and contract, heaving plant roots right out of the ground and killing them. Mulch is useful in minimizing this.
When compared with all those serious conditions, frost seems a minor inconvenience, but in early spring and mid-fall, it can be a real problem. Frost is the deposition of ice crystals on the ground or on vegetation when surface temperatures fall below 32 degrees.
White frost simply is frozen dew and depends on the dew point (the temperature at which the air is holding 100 percent humidity). Black frost occurs when humidity is low and the air is below freezing but above the dewpoint. It is so named because affected vegetable parts turn dark.
All these conditions bring us grief in one way or another, ranging from the aggravation of an early frost to the total devastation of a tornado. Just one more reason to appreciate and enjoy the warm, sunny days that come our way.
As Dunham's Proverbs so wisely say, "To talk of the weather is nothing but folly. When it rains on the hill, it shines in the valley."
Janet Del Turco is a local gardener and a graduate of the Ohio State University Master Gardener
program. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.