Did spring sprung?
March 13th, 2012
I’ll probably be sorry for saying this, but I think spring is here.
At least nature and its plants are acting like it is.
After three weeks of non-stop talks and garden shows, I finally got outside on Sunday to notice blooming daffodils, a nice crop of newly germinated weeds and even a few unfurled rose leaves.
Moths and house flies are active already, too, and the stinkbugs are trying to get back outside.
If I had to guess what time of year it is without looking at a calendar, I’d say early April.
So at the risk of violating Murphy’s Law, I decided to go ahead and follow nature’s lead.
I got a lot of my spring pruning and cleanup done, and I went ahead and transplanted a few perennials and young shrubs. I even planted radishes, lettuce, spinach, onions and peas. I’ve never planted any of those this early.
If the weather stays on this course, we’d gradually slide into real spring and have no dire consequences. The result would be that we just got a really early start to the growing season.
Despite the early bug and weed activity, I’ll take that.
The problem would be if a sudden nosedive in temperature happens after the plants have broken dormancy.
Most of our landscape plants are very good about staying in a dormant “safe mode” where they’re equipped to handle cold weather in winter. But once the plants get enough cues that the coast is clear, they begin to push out those tender leaf buds and speed the development of flower buds.
At that point they become much more vulnerable to the kind of cold damage that they would’ve fended off weeks earlier.
There’s not a whole lot we can do to head off damage to cherry blossoms, for example, that freeze if the temperature dips to 19 degrees after they’ve begun to open. Or to prevent the tips of bulb foliage from browning if we get a night or two down into the teens 2 weeks from now.
I’m just hoping we don’t get any brutally cold surprises from here on out.
If we do, I figure the worst my early action will cost me is a few dollars of wasted seeds and the time spent replanting.
On the other hand, I got to thinking about the reverse consequences of waiting… what if a really early spring is followed by a really early summer?
At this rate, it’s not unthinkable that May could bring temperatures in the 90s, possibly with a dish of drought on the side.
In that case, my poor April-planted radishes would taste like hot peppers, and the lettuce would go bitter and bolt to seed before it ever had the honor of being selected for a salad plate.
It puts us in a tizzy, doesn’t it? What’s an innocent gardener to do?
I say let’s get started.
But I’m not draining the gas out of my snow blower until June.