April Garden Wrapup and the Pretty Pictures of Drought


I really think this year is going to be a cooker by what science and climatologists are predicting. I reported last month that our area is experiencing drought conditions and many questioned this. I attended a talk on bees and the speaker was very concerned for the weather upcoming this year.


“Drought conditions in more than half of the United States have slipped into a pattern that climatologists say is uncomfortably similar to the most severe droughts in recent U.S. history, including the 1930s Dust Bowl and the widespread 1950s drought.” (source)


Can we plant our way out of a drought?

Perhaps we should learn to cope with what nature presents and plant species known to take heat and dry conditions, judging by the last few years.

I have a post coming up on drought tolerant plants I use in garden design, but this means nothing if rains do not come for months. Really, there is no way to plant landscapes out of a drought. We can just be more mindful of what we plant.


Star Magnolia at Niagara Falls

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has said that 2013 is already worse for drought than either 2012 or 2011. Climatologists are predicting rainfall will decrease, temperatures will rise, and the drought could be possibly more severe than previous years for a good portion of the country. The video below shows graphically what areas are going to be the most affected.


February this year has 54.2 percent of the nation in drought conditions and that is up from last year at 39 percent. Climatologists are at an advantage over previous severe droughts in their ability to predict weather conditions at least for three months ahead.

They had no means for the Dust Bowl of the thirties or the drought of the fifties to make long-range predictions. The former drought lasted nine long years and the latter five. But they did learn the Dust Bowl was caused by above-average temperatures and poor farming practices.  At least now farmers can grow different crops, ration water usage, or have better farming practices to ease severity of loss.

“Farmers plowed their land too deep and too frequently, stripping away the plant life that held the soil together. Once the dirt became airborne, the dark particles absorbed incoming heat from the sun, stabilized the atmosphere and stopped the formation of rain-inducing thunderclouds.” (source)

The Dust Bowl will not occur the same way since they found better farming practices to eliminate the creation of the dust.


The dove looks a bit annoyed for some reason. Must be I was ruining the sun bath.

If you want to see what is predicted for your area, check out the video from the Climate Prediction Center.


Spring conditions did bring the bulb plants into bloom, but temperatures in the seventies have made most early blooming plants reduce bloom time. The first three months of the year had below average precipitation. This too affected bulb development.

Our area is expected to experience above average temperature for the next three months, but precipitation has an equal chance forecast. This means they are not certain if it will be above or below normal amounts.


As I reported earlier this year, smaller-than-average snowpack in the central and southern Rockies has added to concerns about the drought in western states. This could increase wildfires also. So much goes into whether an area is facing drought for any given year, and what damage that drought will produce.


Some blooms are still on the way, but will open in higher than average heat.


A few of these images were taken on cloudy days, but no rain. We had sprinkles a few days, but nothing measurable. April 25th was .53 inches and the rest of the month .00 – .02. It is sad for the blooming plants. To view your own area, go here.



I love the violets peeking through the leaf litter.

Does our robin below not look a little miffed? I am guessing, with no rain, the worms are a bit harder to extract. He looks like he is saying, “Get out that sprinkler, will ya?”


I put out the hummingbird feeder because the Ruby Throated Hummingbird has been spotted on its migration in our area. I checked the map.


Now it is wait and see time. See the green behind the feeder? That is the next post.

About Garden Walk Garden Talk

I love to photograph, paint, draw, design, garden, travel the world, and pass on a few tips and ideas that I learned through experience as a Master Gardener and architect. I am highly trained in my field and enjoy my work each and every day. I garden in Niagara Falls, NY in zone 6-B. Find me at: http://gardenwalkgardentalk.com
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54 Responses to April Garden Wrapup and the Pretty Pictures of Drought

  1. Love the light in your captures of flora and fauna – beautiful:) Happy Day!

  2. That robin on the bench is my favorite photo in this post. => Lovely.

  3. I always wonder what the animals are thinking when I photograph them. I think we have been getting all your rain. We’ve had rain and gorgeous cool weather this spring. It has been wonderful. I have some plants that have never bloomed before because they are finally getting the weather they like. It will be interesting to see how it all unfolds this year. I am always cautious with predictions because they are often wrong. I hope for your sake they are. I love the little violets too. They are host plant for Fritillaries.

    • Last post, Brian said, “Sometimes I honestly wonder if animals can sense infrared AF beams. It’s like they are saying, “look all you want, just don’t take my pic”. ” I think I agree with him. The violets bloom too early here for the butterflies, but if it is the leaves the caterpillars are after, I will be on the look out for the little munchers.

  4. I really appreciated your information. I viewed the video then posted it on Facebook and tweeted it. We are losing valuable time in solving some of these issues.

  5. Thanks for posting that video. I guess I’m relieved our region is not expected to suffer drought, but above average rain can mean all kinds of headaches if it becomes extreme.

    • I hope you don’t get floods, but the NOAA had some of that predicted too. I know they cannot be positive on what they predict, but it really seems likely we will not be getting the rain as the first three months have shown.

  6. Bonnie Lee says:

    Being in Southern California where its been exceptionally dry and the wildfire threat increases, I am very concerned about the water we use and the foods we plant. I heard a report on Marketplace about the drought cycles in Africa and that more people died from the most recent drought there than in the Indonesian tsunami in 2004. I hope your post helps others think better about our resources and how we can do better for our communities and our planet.

    Thanks for sharing. (Oh, I love the photos too!)

    • Thank you Bonnie. I too am very worried. Last year many crops did not get planted because of the wet spring, then we had drought all summer and that affected the later producers. The weather really has been paying havoc with farmers.

  7. As always, I am amazed by your beautiful photographs, Donna!!!

  8. Barbie says:

    So terrible to learn about the drought conditions and that it is worse than I expected to hear. With different farming techniques available, like permaculture etc, surely there will be a way to get through it!

  9. connie661 says:

    Great information! For my window boxes, it sounds like I want to choose something that can take some heat. Since I’m not good at watering regularly, I’ll stick with something that doesn’t need to be fussed over.

  10. Christy says:

    Hi Donna….Great information. I think if rain barrels are permitted in a person’s area, they are a wise investment (and easy to make.) We’ve had quite a bit of rain lately and I wish I could save more of it for later. Water restriction was the main reason I designed Morrow Park to have mostly shrubs instead of mostly perennials like I have in the rest of the garden. The last few years living in CA we had water restrictions all the time…I think it’s becoming a reality all over. My favorite picture is the Dove.

    • Rain barrels are a great thing for all homeowners to have, especially those under restriction. We have never had that, but it would not surprise me if it happened. The reservoirs are much lower than they should be.

  11. Gorgeous hellebore photo. We seem to have had plenty of rain and below average temperatures. I hope that continues.

  12. Gorgeous as always! You are a little bit ahead of where I garden. I sure wish I had your talent with a camera.

    • Not really. I think it has only been in the last couple days that things really started to bloom. The tulips shown in the post all dropped petals today. The unopened yellow tulips opened. It was 84° today.

      • Nice. Well, we only have the very earliest tulips and daffodils here yet–no dropping of petals around here. Things are really starting to come up now, though. Toronto is even significantly ahead of where I am.

  13. A contrast between your lush garden photos and the dire predictions in the video.

  14. HolleyGarden says:

    More years than not, we experience some length of drought here. I am worried that another long drought like we had a couple of years ago that killed many large trees here would finish off the ones that somehow made it through that year. As I think about the drought, the Dust Bowl, etc., desertification comes to mind, and I would love to hear your thoughts about a post I read recently on Words and Herbs. http://wordsandherbs.wordpress.com/2013/04/05/reclaiming-desert/

    • I did see this TED talk and what he said is really controversial to common thought and practice, but it makes sense. If it only could be this easy. I was amazed at all his examples, plus the view from space. I’d like to hear the opposing science also and see what they say about it before I decide on my view.

  15. Jennifer says:

    So far we have had a decent amount of rain here. Knock wood! It seems hotter than normal, but perhaps that is in contrast to the cold that seemed to drag on longer than normal. I have a feeling that we will have a dry summer here to…time will tell.
    Don’t you resent a little the idea of limiting your plant selection to adapt to ongoing plant conditions? I do a little. I wish we had paid better attention to the signs of global warming!!

    • Our weather is so similar, but you got the rain, eh? I wish we get some. Seed I planted/broadcast already is probably lost. I have to start watering. I changed over my landscape three years ago, anticipating drier years. Plus I heavily plant so the soils stay cooler, but honestly, not much is helping. Last year was pitiful. As a designer, I have to design what clients want, but they always get told their water bill will climb.

  16. Debra says:

    Gorgeous photos. The dustbowl problems have continued but they just haven’t been visible. It is one of the great American myths that we corrected that problem. There were improvements but they were not sustainable. Farmers and landowners contribute to erosion every time they dig into the earth and every time they use irrigation/sprinkling. The latest estimate is that we have about 60 years of topsoil left. http://www.globalchange.umich.edu/globalchange2/current/lectures/land_deg/land_deg.html and http://world.time.com/2012/12/14/what-if-the-worlds-soil-runs-out/

    • Thanks for the link. Interesting reading. The problem has been identified and that leads to solution. One thing about topsoil, it is not always saved for reuse on construction sites and that really is a crime.

  17. I heard the same thing about an extremely hot summer in the works for my area too. Beautiful photos, as always, but lots of valuable info too. Thanks, Margie

  18. Fergiemoto says:

    Good information here and great photos as usual! Drought is very concerning, and we live in a desert climate where snowpack levels in the mountains is important for our water supply.
    Shortly after the robins arrived this year, we got snow. (They migrated all that way to get snow!?)
    Also, the first hummingbirds arrived a few days ago. I’m glad we had the feeders up.

  19. Patty says:

    Perhaps I shall get a start on watering. We have had some rain in April but it is hard finding out the past precipitation amounts in the historical section of our weather networks. Memory can not be counted on and I have not thought to take my own records.

    • I am wondering about watering too this year. I did it last year a small bit because the wildlife depends in some of my plants and the park meadow plants dried before blooming.

  20. Patrick says:

    Nice meaty post, my friend. Another drought of the magnitude of 2012 will be devastating to the corn and bean harvest which will spike food prices and threaten our tender economy. Fructose corn syrup is in everything we eat and drink. Let’s hope the drought predictions are not fulfilled.

    • I so agree. We depend so much on those two crops and are grown here in Niagara County. Wine too with the grapes. I believe it will be a dry year judging by what has happened in our area so far. Now is when the rains are supposed to come.

  21. Nick Allen says:

    Interesting post. I really like your photos.

  22. A.M.B. says:

    I love the pictures of the mourning dove and the robin. Very sobering post, Donna. Thankfully, April wasn’t too hot in my area (I say “thankfully,” but I’ll admit that it was a bit too chilly for my taste!). I’m hoping we don’t end up with hot, drought conditions for the rest of Spring!

  23. With all of our snow and the rain this spring we are not currently in a drought but we are dry and warmer than normal which is frying bulbs as soon as they come up. We are due for rain and a cool down this week and into the weekend. I have noticed our summers becoming drier every year starting in later May. We apparently have an even chance for hot, dry weather. We shall see.

  24. Andrea says:

    I am not reading about climate change much yet, but i am trying to plant trees as much as I can. I heard those in temperate climes will be colder and those like us will be hotter. And i think we are already suddenly experiencing the changes, not only in temperatures, flooding and strong typhoons, but also the plants change their rhythm. I guess if people have hormonal imbalance, plants suffer this too. For example, my hippeastrum which exhibit dormancy being broken only with heavy rains in May, suddenly flowered in March to April in staggered pattern. All of these are hormone related, so i guess everything is affected, and maybe our knowledge in the past is becoming obsolete sooner! Scary!

  25. stone says:

    Had a bit of difficulty following your topic.
    The poor monarchs had a difficult time last year due to that amazing multi-regional drought. We’re pretty much used to the constant droughtiness here, and the cool spring and continuing rainfall is giving everything problems this year… everything is having powdery mildew, and other spot fungus issues…
    Aren’t y’all having a ton of rain as well?
    According to the weather reporter… the east is seeing above normal precip.

    I’m seeing pictures of baby monarchs in Florida… so… hoping to see them come up my way… directly, in spite of what happened to them last year… when they finally got to my garden last Autumn, they were a full month late… they raised babies and were gone almost immediately!
    Found the post…

    • Hi Stone. The post is based on the first four months of the year 2013 in Western New York. What is predicted the next three months for our area can go either way according to the video in precipitation levels. We have had little rain and I have been watering the garden which I really don’t make a practice of doing. Check out this link for anywhere in the US and Canada as to received precipitation. Type in country, state, county location and date range you want to research. It will give you what you might be looking for.http://www.cocorahs.org/ViewData/ListDailyPrecipReports.aspx

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