Tuesday’s Tips — Phenology

Here’s a fascinating set of tips courtesy of Mother Nature. Using Nature to let you know when to plant crops by observing bud break on plants, the first appearance of specific insects, or the migration of birds is an age-old gardening/farming technique. The study of this practice is called phenology. And although it can sound a little like hocus pocus, there are real, measurable phenomena that signal the ground temperature and day length changes that are critical to successful gardening.

Spring seems to come earlier and earlier. We’re not going to debate global warming, but gardening journals all tell the same story. Mary Beth looked at her journal and found that last year her signal plants bloomed a year earlier than in 2008 and this year it was three weeks earlier. Out here on the West Coast I’ve heard the same things from other gardeners and, if I’d be more diligent in keeping my journal, I could reliably report a similar trend.

So planting by the calendar can get you in trouble, but by using phenology you will be planting based on signs in your environment that conditions are right for seed germination and plant growth.

Tip #1 When to Plant

  • Plant peas when the daffodils and forsythia bloom.
  • Plant potatoes when the daffodils bloom.
  • Plant beets, carrots, cole crops, lettuce, and spinach when lilac is in full bloom.
  • Plant corn when apple blossoms start to fall.
  • When lily of the valley is in bloom, plant tomatoes.

Tip # 2 When to Watch for Pests

  • Eastern tent caterpillar eggs begin to hatch when buds break of flowering crabapple.
  • When chicory begins to flower, watch for squash vine borers.
  • Japanese Beetles begin to arrive when the morning glory vine starts to climb.

These are just a few of many tips that you can find when you search phenology on the internet. Better still would be to start your own journal and record the signs in your environment, after a few years you’ll start to sound like a soothsayer!

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