I was surprised to see geese flying north the other day. It’s at least a month before the Canada geese generally return home. I was hoping that meant a very early spring, but I’ve been informed that there are now populations of Canada geese that stay put all winter. As long as there is food, there’s no need to roam.
Good for their hardy, little souls, but it puts a crimp in my phenology watch list. I have always associated their return with an end to lingering snow.
It’s not that far fetched. There is a science to the timing of recurring biological phenomena and their relationship to weather. It’s called phenology and you probably use it, even if you’ve never heard the word. Ever hear that you should plant corn when the oak leaves are the size of a squirrel’s ear? This really has nothing to do with squirrels or oak trees, except that it’s a indication that the air and or soil temperature has warmed enough for the corn to survive.
There are many phenological cues that can help gardeners. We northern gardeners have learned that the adage of planting peas on St. Pat’s day is not meant for us. Many years we can’t even see the soil. But planting peas when the forsythia blooms is a good bet. Worried about when it’s safe to move the tomatoes outdoors. Once the lily of the valley bloom – it’s time.
Hold off on more tender peppers, eggplant and melons until the iris are in their glory.
It’s not just planting times, either. Squash vine borers lay their eggs when you start seeing those beautiful blue chicory flowers along the side of the road. Once your morning glory vines start their ascent, it’s time to be on guard for Japanese beetles. [There’s more here – Chart of Phenology Garden Cues]
Start noticing patterns in nature each year and use them as your guide in the garden. It’s not infallible, but it’s a lot more accurate than an arbitrary planting guide.
You’ve been listening to Gardening the Hudson Valley. Thank you for joining me this week. I have some wonderful interviews lined up in the not too distant future – when gardening season revs back up. Until then, I hope you’ll join me hear again next week and also on the web site at www.gardeningthehudsonvalley.com, for more gardening tips from the most beautiful place on earth.