Thursday, March 17, 2011

Spring Greening

I started this post two weeks ago when the daffodils and crocuses had only been up for a week or so. Since then, the green grass has overtaken the brown, the hyacinth came up last week and survived the freeze, the forsythia is at peak color, the redbud is showing tiny versions of what the tree is named for, and even the apple trees are budding like crazy.

Normally, I'd be thrilled with the 70+ degree weather that we're having at the moment. OK, I am thrilled. Maybe the sun and warmth will dry up some of the remaining puddles from the deluges of the past few weeks. Still, I have to be a bit concerned. It seems that we are going to have a repeat of last year's go-directly-to-summer-from-winter weather. Spring is good. Spring is necessary. One of the things we love about the climate here is that we typically get four, distinct, and fairly evenly-spaced seasons.

The heat and sun are great for my morale but they cause the plants to get ahead of schedule. The apple trees are especially vulnerable because when they bud early, a late freeze in April (or what would be an entirely normal March freeze) will zap any emergent buds and no fruit will be forthcoming from those that froze. Peach trees are even more susceptible to this problem around here, so we also fear for our neighbors' tree which provides us with such luscious summer fruit.

Another tragedy would be a repeat of last year's morel-hunting season. After a similarly soggy start to the year, we were hopeful that the favored fungi would be plentiful. We dutifully waited until the nights were staying up in the upper 40s before going in search of morels but by the time it was warm enough at night, the days had become scorchers. Nary a morel did we find and I suspect it is because the days got too hot too fast. Maybe it was just that the deer beat us to them, but I have spoken with other fungi foragers who also found it to be a less-than-stellar year for morels here.

And when the heat arrives, the rain tends to go away. At least it did last year and that led to a miserable summer. Not only did we and the buffalo suffer through unusually high temps--August in June--but the drought and heat combo meant the grass stopped growing. That's not good if you're a ruminant. Or the new owner of three large ruminants. We ended up feeding hay in July which just shouldn't happen. We have opened quite a bit more pasture since then, so we hope that won't be a problem this year and yet I worry.

Still, it felt good to get in the garden today and stick my hands in the soil while the sun warmed me from above. I planted all of my cool-weather greens and got the sugar snaps in at last (late again given the warm weather but it's hard to think about planting in February). I was especially thrilled to see a single spear of asparagus poking up from last year's planting. One of the rhubarb plants is also sending up its first leaves. I even found a volunteer kale plant in the bed where my kale was two years ago. Great signs after a tough winter. Now I just need another good rain to fill the rain barrels and I'll keep my fingers crossed that we don't have any more freezes.


  1. We planted young green starts and peas yesterday too in Chicago, where it was 60 degrees F. I have the same concerns you do, Alison. Hoping to not have another blast-furnace summer...

  2. Sounds like I need you to come over and gets your hands in MY garden. I kill things, not a late freeze, ME. It's sad, because I honestly want to be a good gardener. Sigh...

  3. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for you!