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Planting by Phenology (Natural Plant and Animal Cycles)  RSS feed

 
master steward
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I was reading in the How's Your Weather? thread that some people don't start planting until forsythia and native iris start blooming. Somewhere else I read that potatoes should be planted out when the first dandelion blooms. I found this fascinating, especially when we never know when there might be another year without summer. So, I started looking for more indicators.

I found some in Planting calendar based on natural events instead of dates

Mike Gaughan wrote:The term you are looking for is "phenology", defined by Wikipedia as the "study of periodic plant and animal life cycle events and how these are influenced by seasonal and interannual variations in climate, as well as habitat factors (such as elevation)."

I began using planting signs this gardening season with good success.  Some signs I use here in central Connecticut (Zone 6) include:
  plant peas when the daffodils bloom or spring peepers sing
  plant spring veggies when dandelions are in bloom or the lilacs have leafed out
  plant bush beans and summer squash when the lilac flowers have faded
  transplant tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant when the bearded iris is in bloom.

I did transplant kale, cabbage, and chard according to a calendar date based on X number of weeks before the last frost date.  The plants were severely set back by a hard, lingering winter here in New England.  The "rescue" transplants that I set out when the dandelions bloomed did just fine.  Lesson learned!  This stuff is for real, because the native vegetation are far more tuned into soil temperatures and day length than are we, the gardeners.



I went searching for more information, and thought I'd compile it here. Since I live in the Pacific Northwest/Cascadia, these are compiled from bloggers in my area. Supposedly it's best to find out the phenology of your own region.

From http://pnwbasicliving.blogspot.in/2011/01/phenology-vs-lunar-gardening.html

Peas when the Crocuses, Forsythia, and/or Daffodil bloom.
Swiss chard, spinach, beets and onions when Daffodils are in bloom.
Potatoes when the first Dandelion blooms.
Beets, carrots, cole crops, lettuce, and spinach when the Lilac is in first leaf.
Beans, cucmbers, and squash when the Lilac is in full bloom.
Tomatoes when Lily of the Valley is in full bloom.
Melon and pepper transplants when Irises bloom.
Corn, beans, and cucumbers when apples blossoms start to fall.
Tomatoes, melons, peppers, corn, and beans when Flowering Dogwood is in full bloom.
Tomatoes, melons, and eggplant when Peonies flower.
Fall crop cabbage and broccoli seeds when Mock Orange flowers or after Dogwoods have dropped their flowers.



And from http://www.harvestmoonhomesteadandfarm.com/blog/phenology-planting-by-natures-calendar

Plant peas when forsythia and/or daffodils bloom, when red winged blackbird females return, or when chickadees build their nests
Plant potatoes when the first dandelions bloom
Plant beets, carrots, cabbage family crops, lettuce and spinach when lilac leaves unfurl
Plant beans, cucumbers and squash when lilacs are in full bloom
Transplant eggplant, melon, and peppers when irises are in full bloom
Plant corn when apple blossoms begin to fall, or when oak leaves are the size of a squirrel's ear
Plant perennials when maple leaves unfurl
Seed fall cabbage and broccoli when catalpa trees and mock-orange bushes bloom
Set out tomatoes when daylilies start to bloom,  or when flowering dogwoods are in bloom




Image from http://www.harvestmoonhomesteadandfarm.com

EDIT to add more threads about phenology that I found:
  • Foraging calendar based on natural events instead of dates
  • Garden Phenomena 2016
  • timing seed planting by observing nature ...not the calender
  • Planting calendar based on natural events instead of dates


  • Does anyone else plant by phenology? What indicators do you use for different plantings?
     
    Nicole Alderman
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    Oooooh, I also found this really neat website: https://www.usanpn.org/natures_notebook . It is a place for nature observers to record the phenology in their area, to track seasonal changes in plants and animals in their areas.



    According to them:

    A cold front has slowed the spread of spring in the Midwest and Northeast. Spring has arrived in parts of Colorado and Utah 2-3 weeks early.



    They're looking for more people to record observations on their website, if you're interested!
     
    Posts: 248
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    Thanks for the links. There's more information online now than 5 years ago!
     
    Posts: 12
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    Hi

    Here's a website for phenology in Canada:  https://www.naturewatch.ca/plantwatch/

    They're not making the links to guide gardeners yet, but it's a start.

    Cheers
    El
     
    pollinator
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    A caution:

    A few years ago I was at a farm conference, and a local tomato farmer was talking about how the turkey vultures returned like clockwork on one particular day every year.  This year, however, the turkey vultures returned quite early.  I don't recall the specifics, but I think it was at least two or three weeks.  So the farmer decided to move their production forward that number of weeks, using the turkey vultures as their guide.

    That year we had a snowstorm in May.  Average last frost is about April 15.

    I'm not saying phenology doesn't work or can't be trusted, but Nature's a funny thing.
     
    Nicole Alderman
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    I agree! I tend to plant a little bit of seed every few weeks. If they freeze and die, well, I only lost a few and can plant more. If the season is early, I'll get produce sooner. One year, I plante dpeas out January 29th, a good 2-3 weeks before most say to plant them. But, it never got cold again, and summer came soon and hot. So those peas did great and those that planted when "they were supposed to" had their peas not produce because it was too hot, too soon.

    It's helpful to know what signs to look for, but it's also good to be cautious and plant successively!
     
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    I have discussed some phenological and lunar calendars here www.ianslunarpages.org/calendar.html
     
    gardener
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    Nicole Alderman wrote: I went searching for more information, and thought I'd compile it here. Since I live in the Pacific Northwest/Cascadia, these are compiled from bloggers in my area. Supposedly it's best to find out the phenology of your own region.

    From http://pnwbasicliving.blogspot.in/2011/01/phenology-vs-lunar-gardening.html



    In my area (South Puget Sound) oso berry (also known as Indian plum) is generally the first native plant to leaf out in late winter. I might try planting early plants based on when it leafs out. I love the bright green new leaves it gets in late winter and I have planted 50 of them on my property.
     
    Posts: 75
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    Wes Hunter wrote:A caution:

    A few years ago I was at a farm conference, and a local tomato farmer was talking about how the turkey vultures returned like clockwork on one particular day every year.  This year, however, the turkey vultures returned quite early.  I don't recall the specifics, but I think it was at least two or three weeks.  So the farmer decided to move their production forward that number of weeks, using the turkey vultures as their guide.



    Migratory birds would be more in tuned with day length and the conditions where they overwinter.  Plus, because vultures are omnivorous, they might also migrate early because of food supply issues.  I'd be more prone to trust recommendations that refer to migratory waterfowl, or in my area, Sandhill and Whooping Cranes.  Not that I've found any phenological recommendations.  Their northern migration would be the one I trust, I think, since an early winter in their summer breeding grounds could send them to the Gulf Coast early without having a bearing upon weather along their way.  
     
    gardener
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    Many years ago I read that spring planting should be done when oak leaves were the size of a squirrel's ears.

    I've observed that here, different oak varieties "spring" over several weeks' time! I'm stuck with the "last frost date" as a guide.

    My personal observation for my area is that fall planting needs to be started as the Mulberry leaves just start to turn. Any more than a week or so later, and turnips spout, grow to about 1 inch tall... and go into hibernation until spring! Grr!! No winter crop.
     
    Chris Palmberg
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    Joylynn Hardesty wrote:Many years ago I read that spring planting should be done when oak leaves were the size of a squirrel's ears.

    I've observed that here, different oak varieties "spring" over several weeks' time! I'm stuck with the "last frost date" as a guide.



    Ah, to have such a problem...  
    Might I suggest that you do a little experimentation?  If you've got Burr, White, & Red, for example, plant an equal # of seeds from a single source, appropriately marked, in accordance with each Oak sp. and record which performs best and which gets nuked by a late frost, etc.  It's also possible that you'll find multiple phenological indicators... perhaps snow or sugar snap peas thrive when the Burr's leaves are squirrel equivalent, but shell peas need the extra time until the White's are there.  

    I mean, hey, what do you have to lose?  It's so crazy it JUST MIGHT WORK!!! :D
     
    master steward
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    Nicole, thank you for sharing this information.  This is a topic that I am very interested in.

    Over the years I have used something similar though it did not have a name.  Something like we always have our first cold spell Halloween weekend so the kiddies must wear coats over their costumes.  And not planting transplants until after Easter because we will always has a cold front that weekend and the kiddies will need coats over the Easter clothes.

    Here in Texas, they say not to plant until you see the Mesquite leaf out.
     
    Joylynn Hardesty
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    I'm stuck at home, unable to drive to where burr oak is. River Oak (white?) leaves sprout too late. I don't know what color my nearby oaks are that have the big Canada flag shaped (edit: pointy ended, not round lobed, doh!) leaves. I guess I'll have to start taking walks before we defrost. Brrrr!! There is good reason that I do not live further north!
     
    Chris Palmberg
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    So there are several easy ways to ID oak trees.  Burr Oak acorns have a husk that covers all but the tip, and are generally round.  Pin Oak acorns are extremely small, roughly 1/2" in diameter.  Red & White Oak have similar, classic acorns, but there are differences in the leaves and branches.  

    Incidentally, the Canadian flag bears a maple, not an oak leaf.  
     
    pollinator
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    Chris Palmberg wrote:So there are several easy ways to ID oak trees.  Burr Oak acorns have a husk that covers all but the tip, and are generally round.  Pin Oak acorns are extremely small, roughly 1/2" in diameter.  Red & White Oak have similar, classic acorns, but there are differences in the leaves and branches.



    https://www.wikihow.com/Identify-Oaks-by-the-Acorns


    There is an Etsy user selling various field guides for identifying including this one for acorns:



     
    Joylynn Hardesty
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    I knew that. I was in a rush and posted in my "I'm an idiot shorthand" language. Now, imagine an Oak leaf that has the pointy lobes, like the maple, not the rounded lobes. That's what I meant.
     
    Chris Palmberg
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    That sounds like it's likely Pin Oak, or something similar.  The leaves are roughly the size of a child's hand, with points rather than curves.  The acorns are shaped as per the image above, and should be roughly the size of large pea gravel.  
     
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    I am so glad this topic came up. I have found that this could be as simple or complicated as you want it to be. At this time I am trying to get as much planted in the ground before we hit the Equinox. Things planted before the equinox will have lateral growth. After the equinox things are going straight up or what I might call cosmic. At t he end of January we started some lettuce seed in the greenhouse. We pricked them out into flats with 18 plants in a 12x24 flat. We work with the elements based on the way the sun and moon move through the zodiac. With lettuce we tend to work with water and earth element. We prep soil for flats on an earth day. weeding and cultivating on leaf days stimulates movement and growth in the plants. One week before transplanting the lettuce we cut "brownies" by perforating the soil with a knife. This allows each plant to send out a mass of lateral roots. We have found that this greatly reduces transplant shock. In another week we will be starting cucurbit and herb seed. I prepped the soil for squash on a fire a.k.a fruit day. We are in Sacramento so this timeline may not apply to you, but if you are in a colder climate you could just keep the seedlings inside a little longer. I recommend the Stella Natura Calendar as a guide for planning tasks. Hope this is helpful info!
     
    pollinator
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    I downloaded a phenology planting calender last year, but I did not do anything with it. I'm used to 2 special dates: the 11th of May (called 'Ice Saints') should be the last frost date. But often that last frost is earlier. The other date is the 100th day of the year, which is the date to sow flax seeds (fibre flax). But that isn't phenology
     
    pioneer
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    Fascinating. I've always heard that first planting should happen here when snow can no longer be seen on the local ski hill. Now I'm thinking I'd better plant some crocus, forsythia, daffodil, lilac, lily of the valley, iris, and dogwood.
     
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    I have been waiting for the annual weeds to start growing to know when the soil was warm enough to plant small seed, like carrot and beets.
     
    Jotham Bessey
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    El Rowlatt wrote:Hi

    Here's a website for phenology in Canada:  https://www.naturewatch.ca/plantwatch/

    They're not making the links to guide gardeners yet, but it's a start.

    Cheers
    El


    I registered there. Need to look around the site now.
     
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