Will Global Warming Wipe Out Sadness?


Do mild winter gardeners experience SAD?  Do those fabulous and funny Austin, TX gardeners suffer from it?  I’d bet no, though I haven’t asked.  Yet I don’t know any Northeastern gardeners who are not at least a little snarly this time of year.

My own foul mood sets in the instant I can no longer plant tulips, the very last thing you can put in the ground in upstate New York.  Generally, this occurs around Thanksgiving, when the soil freezes so hard, you’ll hear a "boing" sound if you try to touch it with a shovel. 

This year, however, for the first time, I ran out of tulips long before I ran out of gardening days.  In fact, if I had them–if Lowe’s had them, if Brent & Becky’s were still shipping them–I could plant tulips today.   We have had a bizarrely warm fall, more fuel on the anecdotal fire that global warming is a force to be reckoned with.  Of course, I live with the author of Big Coal, who is now one the world’s best-informed reporters on the subject of global warming, and dare not minimize the impending disaster. 

But, I dunno…if it means Northeastern and Midwestern and Western high country gardeners can stay sane by digging all year long…well, the carbon dioxide cloud might have a tiny silver lining.


  1. Lord, I’m surprised the author of “Big Coal” will tolerate “silver lining” musings, even from the mother of his children.
    I’m with ya about the need to dig, or at least handle plants. Now I won’t say a word about what a short period it’s actually too cold to dig or prune here in Zone 7 coz that would be just cruel to you northerners.

  2. It’s kinda the reverse in the south where the climates are mild in the winter and brutally hot in the summer. I get depressed in the summer because a) my plants look terrible from the beating sun/heat/humidity b) I can’t even go do anything about it because they will come back in the fall if I leave them alone, and c) it’s too freaking hot out to do anything even if I could. So mostly we just stick an arm out the door with SPF 400 on it, soak all the wilting plants, and retreat to the air conditioning. At least in the winter we can finally be outside again, enjoy the lower humidity and crisp air. (If you can call 84 degree at noon on Dec. 16 crisp. I can’t.)

  3. Planting tulip bulbs as a benefit of global warming? When I lived in Northern Illinois, changing from zone 5A to zone 6 might have seemed like a “silver lining” too.

    Heather is right about the reverse depression in Texas. There’s always a day in mid-spring when I realize that this is it for the year – there will be no more breaks in the heat, no more occasional cool nights, no long simmering soups or roasted vegetables in the oven, but that the windows will be shut, we’ll cook everything possible on the grill or in the microwave, and the air-conditioners will be running non-stop for the next 7 or 8 months.

    Sometimes I must weep or throw things, or scream, “I can’t do this again!!” However, I have a garden blog now, where I can bitch and moan this spring, giving my family a break.

    Although it counts as a seasonal depression, the warm version doesn’t work the same way: in the Northern states, ALL you can do is look at the garden – the ground is frozen, there’s snow, and the plants are dormant, so you are physically restricted from manipulating them.

    In the warmer states, while winter planting and transplanting is preferable for shrubs, trees & perennials, there is no physical barrier preventing us from digging all year round. More plants may die with summer planting, but Mother Nature hasn’t closed the playground for the season.

    We’re never closed here. Even in miserable heat, I must dig, for weeds enjoy heat. Few plants go dormant and the ground never freezes so they need water 12 months of the year. The garden is relentless in its needs.

    So Michele, you might feel better in a place like Austin, or you might still feel bad but in a different way.

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  4. Would you believe, it’s the spring that gets me down? I keep my hands dirty through the winter with house plants and cold frames, but something about spring–especially late-spring-cusping-summer–almost always sends me into a slump. I’m a cold weather bunny. 🙂

    If you want to keep playing in the dirt through the winter, I’ve really enjoyed the ideas in this book:

    “Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long” by Eliot Coleman.

  5. Like the earlier discussions here about accepting ‘dead’ vegetation for the winter, I consider the hibernation impulse at this time of year normal.I cope with it in various ways, but I don’t try too hard to pull myself out of it.

    I think humans, like plants, need seasonal ‘down time’ to recharge. May not be pretty, but it’s necessary. Who says you have to be Susie Sunshine all year long?

    The thing that worries me about global warming is, if it goes on too long, likely we will see a ‘snapback’ in the other direction — and I saw a report just recently that said species extinctions, plant and insect migrations northward, and earlier flowering seasons are occurring faster than expected, so planetary systems may react sooner than anticipated.

    I’d rather not live through another ‘Little Ice Age’!

  6. I agree with all of you–every gardener has something to complain about. But I’m actually vaguely fascinated by the way my mood plummets as soon as the ground freezes. It feels somatic, not psychological.

    However, I also agree with you firefly, that down-time is important. I just wrote a little piece for O Magazine about that very subject. What would cold-climate gardens look like, if we didn’t have a few months to order crazy things from catalogs and dream?

    I also don’t think global warming is a joking matter, though I do joke about it. But I don’t feel as if I’m hearing nearly enough about the ways in which it’s affecting gardeners. Beyond the whole tragedy of sick sugar maples, etc., it HAS to change the way we go about our business.

  7. Heh. My comment is philosophy in action, isn’t it? I didn’t realize until I read it again that it even sounds a little “Eeyore”-ish. Put it down to only 8 hours of sunlight a day here now, and me being less than halfway through the coffee mug at the time.

    I’m fascinated by unintended consequences, so who knows — maybe the ability to garden longer in the year could have a positive effect on the warming trend.

    Clearly, we all need to plant more things!

  8. I agree with Heather and Annie, my fellow Texas bloggers: we get SAD too, but it happens from June to September, when it’s brutally hot and oppressively sticky outside. I feel happier at this time of year, when it’s comfortable to be outdoors. When summer revs up though, I retreat indoors (except, as Annie said, to battle weeds), hide from the sun behind drawn curtains, and plan my escape to Boulder.

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