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We haven’t entered springtime officially, but tell the weather that! This has been a most mild winter, and Ohio experienced all time high temperature records for the month of February in 2017. It accelerated a climate phenomenon which, as a gardener, I look for each year.
Most everyone know of the “Indian Summer” and “January Thaw” that is experienced – those period of unexpected warmth coming in autumn time and the month of January, respectively. The Indian Summer is that bit of reprieve from the onset of freezing temperatures, ideal for a procrastinating gardener to hurriedly put the last of the bulbs into the ground. The January thaws are those sloppy times of year when winter snow (should we be so lucky to have snow cover) becomes slush. I haven’t found it to be a boon to the gardening chores, it is mostly a teaser to better days ahead.
There is another climate pattern that arrives pre-spring, usually in March, but this year quite early, so I found myself gardening in early to mid-February. There is no name for it that I know of, but this warm, dry period has become important in my gardening year.
You see, in this area it preceded what can be called “mud time”. The ground thaws in earnest, and the spring rains begin to fall, which makes spring ground inadvisable to work. In precisely that sequence.
Despite the eagerness to get soils ready for planting, clay ground just cannot be worked during mud time.
That is why I look for this late winter window, a period when the ground has thawed enough to work, the weather is pleasant enough to spend outdoors, and the rains have not yet arrived. It is a wonderful time to ready the gardens with weeding and even shallow tilling.
Good for weeding because the soils are loose and the roots are easy to pull.
What Shall I Call It?
“The Gardeners Window”? Or maybe “Indian Spring”? It is a time that allows for the same short enjoyment of ideal conditions that the Indian Summer spate of the last hurrah of golden days gives us.
It is a window, not a door, and even as I write this Gardener’s Window has shut, for now. Rains have soaked the ground, and temperatures will grow colder. I already regret not moving some of the earth I had planned to, but grateful for a front yard spot that is nearly ready for early spring planting.
It also allowed for clearing some of the old vegetable garden in readiness for transplanting wayward strawberry plants before the spring tilling.
The older I grow the more grateful I am that weather conditions allow me my slow pace in the round of chores. Such work is more of a pleasure than a burden.
Sign of Spring is Crocus
The warmth causes the crocus to bloom very early.
Out here in the boondocks of long horizons and farmers fields, the signs of season’s change are always a bit delayed compared with most of Central Ohio. Even the extremely early warmth, while coaxing may spring bulbs to greater foliage heights, did not culminate in bloom… except for the enthusiastic crocus.
I favor Snow Crocus corms, and they pop up and bloom quite early- I had a whole stand of them which have naturalized underneath a Sweet Cherry tree a-buzzing with bees last week.
For this, the feeding of foraging bees, it is reason enough to plant as many crocus as one can afford in both budget and labor.
This is a challenge. The bulbs are favorite snacks of a number of critters. Most of my plantings see decrease, not increase. In fact, that area of spreading C.Tommasinianus did not struggle against the challenges to which others had succumbed. Yes, I’m talking about “The Mowers” who are not me.
It underlines Nature’s fiat on the necessity of bulb foliage growing until fully withered. The crocus in this space also has little competition from grass, since I neglectfully allowed weeds to grow there instead. Not that I advise this particular practice! But I do see that grass can be a merciless competitor.
Along Come the Snowdrops
The Galanthus nivalis, Snowdrops had bloomed at the same time as the early crocus this year. I had intended to divide and move some of them, now I will wait until they are finished blooming, but before they cease active growth.
I read an interesting tidbit about this plant that could explain why they are so slow to spread on their own in my garden. In their own native lands, the bees pollinate, but it is foraging ants (which are attracted to the elaiosomes on their seeds containing fats and proteins) who help plant and spread Snowdrops.
In my garden I must manually ensure the groups of G. nivalis. They have been very slow to grow into nicely blooming clumps.
The Trees and Bushes
As usual for my yard, the Viburnum ‘Dawn’ showed some pink blooms in its clusters- not full blown, but just a hint. The silver maples dropped their red flowers to litter the walkways, deck, and driveway. It is hard to say whether the return of freezing temperatures will be taken in stride or not… it all depends on how cold for how long, and how far the plants have progressed in their growth.
Whatever the longer term effects, it is so pleasant to be outside comfortably in the months that can be chilling and harsh in most years. After all, the Native Americans called this month’s moon the “Hunger” or “Snow” moon.Moon Month Names
The Usual Chores
Usually, late winter is a good time to prune many of your woody plants. As the month turns to March, the time has arrived to begin your indoor seed starting. Gardening will begin in earnest at the end of this month. Tools sharpened and ready?