For Release August 18, 1998

Don’t Take Mother Nature Personally!

by Chuck Otte, County Extension Agent

I was somewhat surprised this summer when numerous individuals brought me plant samples with various problems. The fact that the plant samples had problems did not surprise me. What surprised me was the response when I identified the disease, insect or environmental problem; "How can I be having problems. I was doing everything right!" I was equally surprised at the amount of personal indignation that some of these homeowners showed.

Okay, wake up call and reality check! By "our" standards, the natural world is not perfect. But more importantly, Mother Nature and the natural world doesn’t care about "our" standards. They work under their own rules of which rule #1 is that Mother Nature always bats last. Which means that she will always have the final say in everything that we may try.

It has long been known that, just like people, a stressed plant can develop more problems and develop them more quickly than an unstressed plant. In numerous studies, plants have been placed side by side, one plant stressed and one plant not stressed. Insects were attracted to the stressed plant much faster. So, with proper care and management you can have a less stressed plant that will be better prepared to deal with what ever Mother Nature throws at it. It will not, however, be totally immune to problems.

We have had an extreme summer. We have had an extreme summer with lots of wild swings and fluctuations. We’ve had high and low temperatures. We’ve had near drought conditions followed by near flood conditions. We’ve had uncommonly high relative humidity and uncommonly calm wind conditions. There are not enough things that you can do in your yard or garden to eliminate all stress with these kinds of weather fluctuations.

The next thing you have to remember is that all of these weather extremes and all of the micro-climate conditions that occur in your yard or garden are totally and completely random. Don’t take it personally. Mother Nature is not slapping you, individually, in the face. I have a saying on my bulletin board that is credited to Robert Jugersoll: "In nature there are neither rewards nor punishments, there are consequences."

You can have all the right growing conditions and do several things wrong, such as irrigate and fertilize improperly, and have a disaster. You can do everything right, and have abysmal growing conditions and have a disaster. You can have all the wrong growing conditions and do everything wrong and have no problems at all. It may not make sense, but it’s just one of those random occurrences. Years of experience and observation tell me though that if you do everything right you will have better success then if you do everything wrong.

This has been just another typically bizarre year in the Great Plains. You can seldom predict what to do next year based on what happened this year. You look at the average and you plan for that average, and then have contingency plans of "what if." We will always have weather extremes, that’s the nature of the plains states. Many of my generation seem to be having a little more problem accepting that since the mid 1950s through the early 1980s appeared to be less extreme than the years prior. The weather isn’t going haywire, it’s simply returning to normal!

Mother Nature is going to do what Mother Nature wants to in her own random fashion. Sometimes she points out problems that we can, and need to, correct. Sometimes we do everything right and we are gloriously rewarded, and other times we are unceremoniously hammered. You just have to roll with the punches, learn what you can and keep going. But don’t take Mother Nature personally, the ulcers aren’t worth it!


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