You already know that I am a fan of phenology by my reliance on the oak leaves as a last frost date.
For years, my recollection (backed up by 20 years of written gardening journals) is that our trees are pretty much in full leaf by the first week of May.
Additionally, the dogwood trees bloom for Mother’s Day, along with the lilacs. Other gardeners that I have spoken to confirm these “recollections.”
So is the problem this year the date of Mother’s Day, which is falling in the second week of May? Because while I do have dogwoods (albeit not quite as lush this year as in other years), the lilacs are barely open.
Perhaps because of the late date, they decided to split the difference!
It’s been wet–a lot–for well over a year here in my part of the Northeast. It began last winter in March with 3 extremely wet, heavy snows.
That was followed by wet–from April until October–and then we alternated between heavy, wet snow, ice and rain all winter.
Right now we have just finished 10 days of rain, clouds and gloom. We are already well above where we should be in both rain and snow metrics for the year and our rivers are above flood stage.
The photo above is my neighbor’s sugar maple.
This is my dogwood.
If our conditions continue to be this wet, we will be able to call ourselves a rainforest pretty soon!
Every year when I am thinking about my last frost date (which averages April 25) I don’t look at the calendar: I look at the oak trees.
There’s an old saying that when the oak leaves are the size of little mouse’s ears, it’s safe to plant.
You may think that this sounds like an old wives’ tale. Call it what you want. I think it’s a farmer’s saying. And in the years before sophisticated technology and weather satellites, what did the farmers use? Phenology–the study of signs in nature.
Internet searches yield lots of different ways to use this for planting guidelines. There are all sorts of regional planting guidelines cued to the flowering of various local trees and shrubs–search for “farming guides and phenology.” To make it local, add your state or region.
As for me, I am not sure where I first heard the “little mouses’ ears” advice. But I have plenty of oaks and I watch them carefully. And, so far, the advice has been great–no frost after the oaks leaf out.
But of course, by the look of these oaks, I won’t be planting anything tender anytime soon!
Why are you looking at 2 dead trees? I know that I am always whining about spring coming too slowly to Connecticut (actually I usually say that it doesn’t come at all and that all we have is winter and July.) But surely this isn’t a post about that.
No, it isn’t. And if I carefully think about it, most years, our trees leaf out about the first week of May and stay in leaf until the first week of November when the leaves come down almost like a blizzard. If we’re lucky, there’s enough time between leaf fall and snow fall to get them off the grass.
But the 2 dead trees are important. They are in the portion of our yard that will shortly be leafy woods. We leave them there as “snags,” or wildlife nesting places.
Even if they were to fall, there is enough land around them that nothing could be harmed.
And there are several fallen trees in our tiny woods as well, to provide cover for small creatures and habitat for their young.
Most people don’t have the ability to leave a type of wild place like this in their yards, but a brush pile out of sight can also work (on a smaller scale, of course).
We need to try to provide habitat for our wildlife or we will lose it.