Keith Kridler, Texas

"record" warm winter for Texas

April 1, 2012

Categories: Bulb Information, Growing Daffodils, Planting, Soil

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It is all over local TV channels and Newspaper that we have had one of the “warmest winters” EVER across the whole state of Texas on average…..which has triggered all of the plants to bloom sooner than normal, so much doom and gloom about weather in the news it even frightens me:-)).
There are all kinds of different ways to interpret “warmest temperatures” ever. One of the oldest scientific methods is based on “Chilling Hours” which are critical for plants, especially peaches and other fruit crops to come out of dormancy, bloom correctly and then set fruit correctly.
Daffodils varieties (species family groups especially) require different amounts of “chilling hours” and timing of soil temperatures and then soil moisture and other factors contribute to root development. Then top growth I am sure, has other external factors once sunshine hits green sprouts and leaves begin producing food for the bulbs, roots and buds. 
IF you go to the link above that is the official Texas site to record chilling hours for all or most of the Northeastern half of Texas. They have the average Chilling hours for 14 of the last 15 years.
Officially this past winter we had 980 chilling hours. Historically this region hopes for at least 800 to 900 hours for the fruit tree varieties commonly planted in commercial orchards.
“Officially” in just the last 14 years there have been FIVE warmer winters total chilling hour wise than this “warmest year EVER”. If you add just a single day or another 24 hours of temperatures that are at or below 45*F or 7 *C then we would have reached 1000 chilling hours and this past winter would have been only the EIGHTH warmest winter in the last 14 years by total chilling hours!
Texas bumped our show date back a full week, everyone panicked about the warm or hot winter but in the end NO ONE was able to bloom and enter a single Poet other than an early species! Two weeks later in Arkansas there were still a LOT of late blooms coming out of north Texas for that show. YES there were a LOT of the really early varieties that bloomed out for most of the folks but there were MORE blooms left back in beds and fields that none of us were going to have time to enter. Same applied to the Arkansas show. Even with two and three folks helping enter and clean and stage and place entries in the shows most of the blooms were left back in yards and fields and or on the staging tables…
Mulching the soils versus having bare soils often makes two to three weeks difference in bloom times with the same variety. Early watering during a very dry fall can also make a few weeks of difference in bloom times here in Texas. Early root growth leads to early sprouts coming.
Green mulch (weed or grass cover) during the fall and winter can make a two to three week difference over same varieties on bare soils.
Experiment with late planting of bulbs! In Texas fall blooming varieties that bloom from Early December to Early January will bloom perfectly for our March shows IF we plant them just 6 weeks before our show date or plant them about the middle of January.
I know that up north in some areas that bloom times can be compressed into a few short weeks of daffodil blooms but I am curious if areas that are cancelling their shows have had less chilling hours locally this winter or not or if the really early bloom times are brought on by factors other than total chilling hours, mulching or lack of mulching.
They also track intensity and or numbers of hours of sunshine for some locations. Power Companies also have very complex wind, temperature and sunshine that they factor in so that they fire up power plants just hours before they actually predict they will need them.
Pretty curious as to what soil temperatures were or chilling hours were month by month. Seems like we should be able to predict soil temperatures and root growth a few months in advance. With enough time to add mulch or rake away mulch to change soil temperatures. Keith Kridler Mt. Pleasant, Texas 

One response to “"record" warm winter for Texas”

  1. David Adams says:
    Hi Keith,
    What a wonderful piece of writing. Perhaps someone else can explain the activation of growth hormones (auxins or gibberellins or?) as a consequence of chilling in plants.
    I am also convinced that moisture plus warm soil adds size and quality to flowers during the flowering season. We can rarely get the quality of flower here as they do in the Waikato. My best flowers always arrive after the show season when our soil warms up except on rare occasions when we have a warm August.