How will this affect our gardens?
If you usually sow seed in the garden for your cool-weather veggies, it looks like it would be a good idea to begin the seed indoors and be ready to put transplants out when soil temperatures are in the 40s and 50s after you have been able to properly work the soil.
If you decide to do this, you will need to harden off your transplants before putting them in the garden just as you should do with warm-weather transplants. Set them outside during the day in a sheltered area for a few hours. Take them in at night, and then continue to do this for longer and longer periods for about 10 days or so, exposing them to more and more light and outside air. Once they are in the garden, be ready with row covers for those dips in temperature that might happen without much warning.
Although the weather we've had this year isn't necessarily a harbinger of winters to come — at the same time, if you are planning on adding new flowers or new planting beds this spring, think seriously of planting perennials that are hardy in areas that are cooler than zone 5 (say zone 3 and 4). They will do well here, and you will have less worry about whether they can weather subzero temperatures and still keep coming back.
Planning an all-season garden with perennials is challenging but rewarding. Not only will it be beautiful, but it is such fun searching for the right plants for the different areas in your garden with the main idea of having something blooming all season long. I've included a link to Purdue's Publication HO-79-W, which gives a very long list of eligible perennials for the Indiana garden plus basic information on what each plant needs to thrive: www.hort.purdue.edu/ ext/ho-079.pdf.
The Horticulture Department at the Allen County Extension has encouraged Indiana gardeners to use native plants.
These are plants that will survive most any type of weather that comes our way from hot, dry summers to very cold winters such as the one we are experiencing. This link gives a list and a description of many native trees, shrubs and other plants you can add to your collection:
www.indianawildlife.org/wildlife/native-plants/. It also gives a list of invasive plants that you should avoid.
This year Horticulture Educator Ricky Kemery is offering certification to anyone who wishes to make their landscape sustainable.
An Allen County Sustainable Working Group made up of Master Gardeners has been trained to visit your home and give you information on what you would need to do to make your yard and garden a healthy place for family and wildlife to live and play.
Once you have made the changes they recommend (and they aren't expensive or extensive), you will be given a plaque saying that your property is certified sustainable.
If you are interested, call 481-6826 and ask for a visit.