Monday, July 18, 2016

Fireweed and Spruce Aphids--What the Warm Weather is Doing in Homer

The fireweed outside my window is likely 9-10 feet tall.
From inside my house, considering foundation height, it is still taller than I am!

As I looked out my window the other day I was struck by two things:  the height of the fireweed and the brownness of my spruce tree. Both are results of record-breaking warm weather in Homer recently.

We have a saying that when the fireweed reaches the top of the stalk, blooming from the bottom up, summer is over. However, I think this may need to be revised. This year nearly everything is a month to six weeks early. 

July 7th--just a week ago--I was across the bay picking blueberries and salmonberries. The salmonberries were fallng off the bushes they were so ripe in places. Last summer we picked berries the first weekend of August and I thought that was outrageously early. The previous 3 years I scheduled my girls weekend out across the bay, berry picking every Labor Day weekend, and the blueberries were just coming into fine form. Crazy! We are a solid 6 weeks early on the berry season this year. So are the fireweed going to fluff early, but in the middle of summer?

Behind the fireweed in the picture above is my glorious spruce tree. All over the Homer area, spruce trees are browning, due to an invasion of spruce aphid, which are caused in part by mild winters (above 15 degrees F, according to the recent UAF Cooperative Extension handout about it). While I've kind of enjoyed the warm winters, seeing beautful spruce trees appearing to die (they are not; only suffering) is challenging. The strange thing about these aphids is they only suck sap from old needles, so new growth tips still grace the trees. Apparently cutting what appear to be dead branches off just stresses trees more and should not be done, which people in Homer have been doing. In fact, many have already cut their spruces down completely, finding the brown and dropping needles intolerable. We need a cold winter to reduce the spruce aphid population, but predictions don't have one coming.

July 2 garden is ahead of schedule

I could have planted my greenhouse in late March this year and not risked much. We got a couple of mild frosts, but not enough to get excited about. We rototilled the garden in April; normally the ground is too boggy to work that early and it happens in mid-May. The garden picture above was taken July 2, and in the two weeks since, it looks like it has been hyped up, with many the plants double in size and broccoli and zucchini ready to pick. The spinach is over the can't take this heat. The slugs have made lunch of the strawberries, which is still a bumper crop despite them.

I don't know if signs of climate change are visible in the Lower 48, but here in Alaska, the signs are everywhere, from the changes in the ocean to the unseasonably early plant growth. It is both unsettling and fascinating to watch, and I have to wonder if this is like a slow motion train wreck we are in the middle of observing.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Does your community have farmers markets?