Busy, Crazy May

So, I had no sooner moved about 60% of my house plants outside last weekend when the meteorologists started making sounds about “record-breaking” cold.

Needless to say, after all that plant moving, I wasn’t amused. Nor was I moving any plants back.

You can tell that I haven’t been posting quite as regularly as I used to. The Spoiler is having some issues, beginning with a hospitalization in late April. He is recovering, slowly, but we have a whole host of helpers coming in–PTs, OTs, nurses, etc.

And I am busy running him to doctors as well. So gardening has really taken a back burner, as it should.

So, when the cold snap hit, I simply went out with a motley assortment of blankets and beach towels–very festive!–and covered the house plants that were already summering outdoors. Let’s face it, there are really bigger things to worry about right now.

The next day was a holy day, so I uncovered the plants early and went to church. And no, I didn’t pray for the plants!

And Friday is always my “late day”–I am not supposed to be at work before 9 am. So, I brought the rest of the house plants out because Saturday is supposed to be our first rainy day is over two weeks so I might as well let nature water rather than me!

As for the rest of the gardens? There’s been no weeding, no pruning, no clean-up, and I can’t even really get stressed about it right now. I am barely noticing what’s blooming, sadly.

I am hoping to get some of these plants that need to be transplanted taken care of on Sunday–or not. We’ll see.

And of course, Memorial Day weekend is my traditional vegetable and herb garden planting. Maybe it will happen this year. If not, there’s plant of time for it to happen later.

Gardening is a respite for me though, so I do wish I had a bit more time to do it. But I will take what I can get!

Little Mouse’s Ears

This is more or less an annual post for me now–the only thing that changes is the photo of the oak leaves (yes, that’s what you are looking at–tiny oak leaves, and off to the bottom of the stem, unopened tiny unopened tiny oak flowers) and the date of my post.

So what the heck is this about? There’s an old farmer’s saying that when the oak leaves are the size of little mouse’s ears, you have had your last frost.

It’s a type of phenology, which I think all gardeners do in some form or other, even if we don’t do so formally. We have a favorite tree that we look to before we know that it’s safe to plant tender veggies. Or we know that when the lilacs bloom, we can put geraniums out–pick your tree or shrub for your own climate.

So I have my oak leaves bigger than little mouse’s ears–and this year, they are on my oak tree earlier than they have ever been.

Then again, record breaking 90 degree days in April will do that. I just hope that the trees–and the rest of nature–haven’t been tricked somehow. But I am not ready anyway to put anything tender out. I remember the May snows we can have. Sigh.

If You Don’t Like the Weather…

Mark Twain, the famous writer, and one time Hartford resident, has famously said “if you don’t like the weather in Connecticut, wait 5 minutes. ”

Which is where I have developed my own weather statement from: we don’t have seasons here, we have winter and July. And apparently winter is ending a bit early for us this year–by the end of this week, it’s predicted to be in the upper 80s! That should be interesting. We have had a few warm days in April before (as well as some ridiculous snowstorms), but I can’t recall needing the central air in April. I hope that I still won’t but it’s not looking promising.

But wait–isn’t this a gardening blog? Why, yes. But as I always say when I am lecturing, if the weather is hard on us, it’s equally difficult for our plants, who can’t just pick up their roots and move somewhere for relief.

This unseasonable warm spell is coming with no rain. And while it has been a wet winter, with warm (dare I say hot) temperatures and low humidity, it is going to dry out fast. We have already had one “red flag” day because of the warm, dry conditions.

So as the temperatures heat up this week, be aware of stress on your plants, particularly broad leafed evergreens.

Deciduous trees may be leafing out more quickly than they are used to as well–or earlier.

While I rarely complain that it is too warm, I also don’t want my plants to fry. So just be aware. And if you are like me–someone who likes it warm–enjoy this early bit of “July.”

Is It Spring Yet?

The vernal equinox is Monday, March 20 (today) at 21:24 UTC which is 5:24 p.m. EDT.

Of course, for those of following meteorological seasons, Spring began March 1st. And, as I am fond of saying, for those of us living here in Connecticut, we have no spring–just winter and July. We’ll see if the predictions of a warm spring will play out again this year (which would be lovely since it does happen so rarely). Of course, the predictions are also for an extra warm summer–and I will take that as well. Heat never bothers me, but I am a baby about the cold.

Still for all our writing and predicting and talking about it, weather is one thing that we absolutely cannot do one thing about. We can try to plant sustainably with natives to survive the variables that nature produces, but we cannot control those variables.

We can try to extend our seasons–in both the spring and the fall–with any number of measures like floating row covers, cloches, “wall-o-waters,” and other “mechanical” devices that cover or otherwise insulate our tender plants from temperatures that they otherwise would object to.

Or we can get less garden-y and just throw a sheet, towel or whatever is to hand over a container or a large potted plant if frost threatens.

Or, we can throw up our hands and say, okay, season’s over–let nature do its thing (which is generally my approach!) By the time fall comes, I am more than ready to tend to my overflowing collection of house plants–but I do understand not everyone feels that way.

But isn’t that what’s best about gardening–that we don’t all have to do it the same way?

How Many Words for Snow?

So it’s been a couple of weeks. The President’s Day weekend, which was the third weekend of February this year, was so unseasonably warm that I was outside pruning my Japanese maples.

The forecast for the next day was for snow but it had been 62 the day before. Even I thought, really? Is that possible?

Well, it was. And of course, because it had been so warm for the prior few days, the snow didn’t appear to be sticking to the pavement. Nevertheless, I took the safe route down the lawn as I always do when it snows.

Except that in this particular instance, that wasn’t the safest route. Because it had been so warm, the snow was extremely wet–wetter than in my photos on Friday. It caked into the treads of my boots and turned them into skis and down I went onto my hip. The dog looked at me like “why are you playing? I thought we were going for a walk .”

Anyway, again, because it had been warm, the ground wasn’t frozen, so I was just a bit bruised and sore.

The next few days gave rise to our next few words for frozen fun: black ice and freezing fog. For the uninitiated, black ice is where the pavement looks wet but is actually frozen.

Freezing fog is different. It’s like dew, or fog that comes down from above and freezes on the surface. Same effect as black ice–a skim coating of ice almost invisible to the eye–but black ice is usually residual moisture freezing on the pavement whereas freezing fog comes down from above.

There’s definitely more but we rarely experience them here in New England. We do get dry, powdery snow on occasion. Not the lovely dry champagne powder like they have out West, but soft, and light and flaky nevertheless. It’s rare, but it does happen.

But we more often get heavy, wet snow, especially this time of year, that has the consistency of wet concrete or mashed potatoes–lumpy mashed potatoes at that.

So you can see that although this isn’t a place like Alaska where they say the Native peoples have 40 words for snow, we do have quite a vocabulary to describe our winter weather here–and I am sure that I have left some of it out (particularly the colorful cuss words!)

Snow Daze

The way that the weather people have been carrying on about the East Coast, you, might think that this is the first snow of the winter. It isn’t. Nor is it particularly unusual for us to get snow this time of year. We regularly get snow in late February and early or even mid-March.

What is unusual is that this is almost half the snow that we have received for the whole season. This is about a 6″ storm. We have had another 7″ or so over the whole rest of the winter. That’s what’s crazy. We should have had at least 40″ by now.

And it was a pretty storm too. Not wet enough to do damage but heavy enough to cling and be pretty.

I should have gotten a little closer here but I didn’t want to ruin the snow with my footprints (does anyone else think about that? ) That’s my new bench that my sister gave me for Christmas looking pretty in the snow.

The Sounds of Autumn

It’s beginning to look a lot like fall….

I am not sure why, but this year, in addition to noticing the lovely fall colors, I am hearing the changing of the seasons as well in a way that I have never noticed quite so much before.

I always associate summer with the dog day cicadas and the songs of the katydids. But I have never quite noticed how vocal the crickets become in the fall. In late afternoon and early evening, their song is so vocal that it rivals the early spring peepers. It’s really something!

And there is the change in the birdsong as well. Spring of course brings the cacophony of bird song as every bird tries to outdo all the others for mates and territory.

In fall, it’s a different thing. For one thing, there are fewer birds and different birds. I no longer hear the robins and wrens calling and singing–but the blue jays are outdoing them with their strident calls.

The chickadees–one of the first birds to start singing in the spring–are singing again now, but it’s different now. I can’t tell you how. Perhaps it just sounds different because it’s now blended with the nuthatches and the titmice.

And while the red-bellied woodpecker is still scolding me every time I walk too close with the dog, now I see the downy and hairy woodpeckers back from their summer sojourn up north (or up higher in the leafy canopy out of my eyesight!)

And finally, there’s the sharp “crack” when the acorns clatter off the oak trees hit the hard driveway, roof or something else solid.

There is a beauty to every season–we just need to slow down a bit to appreciate it!