Once again, I’m finding myself very far behind in my spring gardening plans. This winter has been a rough one for my family, and it’s been difficult to find the time or energy to get things started. In my growing zone, it’s a race to get plants started if you’re growing them from seed. Our hot and humid summers are deadly to cool temperature loving garden goods like lettuce and peas. In our mild winters, it’s best to plant onion relatives as soon as New Year’s. To get other crops in the ground in time, they need to be started in February or March in order to be well established before the dog days of summer put the beat down on your garden. This also allows you to harvest sooner and longer throughout the season.
I’ve done my research on what to plant and when to plant it. But, as any groundhog will tell you, the prediction of the coming of spring can be a bit of trial and error. Luckily, there are a few indicators that can help you determine when to get started. Or in my case, when to get your hind end in gear and your hands dirty.
Here in the southeast, there are four flowering plants and trees that act as indicators that tell you approximately how many frosty nights you have to worry about. Each nightly temperature dip is named after the flower bloom that precedes it. Closer to the coast where I live, there are only three. The first to bloom is the redbud tree.
Once all of the redbuds are in full bloom, one can expect Redbud Winter to set in with a couple of nights of heavy frost.
Then the dogwoods bloom followed by a lighter Dogwood Winter frost.
On a short walk with my son, I saw something that disturbed me. I spied a single wild blackberry flower in full bloom. But, with the redbuds in full bloom, could it be that we only have a single wintry temperature dip left? Normally, the temperature dip following the wild blackberry blooms is noticeable but above freezing for Blackberry Winter. By the looks of my 10 day weather forecast, the threat of frost is almost over, and it’s time to plant pretty much everything in my seed collection. It doesn’t look like night-time temperatures will dip below 45 degrees F (7 C) until the fall.
This isn’t the first year we’ve skipped some of the expected temperature dips, but it certainly caught me off guard this year. So, now I’m scrambling. I’ll have to simplify my plantings this year and only start seeds for my absolute favorite varieties. Otherwise, I’ll be taking on a little too much, I think. There’s too much to do all at once, and I already have enough on my plate.