This is a journal of my vegetable gardens. Skippy was my first dog and he always thought the garden was his. Even though I do all the work, he always stood by me. I'm located near Boston (in USDA zone 6A). I have a community plot and a backyard vegetable garden. I use sustainable organic methods and try to grow all of my family's vegetables.

Monday, March 30, 2009

crocuses mean its time to plant the peas


The crocuses are in full bloom in my side yard. I haven't had time to rake yet, but they've popped up through the old leaf layer anyway.

Another job still waiting is to rake out my side yard raised beds and plant peas. It's time. I could have planted peas last week. I don't think it'll matter to be a bit late.

As I admire the crocuses, I'm thinking that these bright faces are a good sign that its time to plant pea seeds. Sometimes its hard to know when your last frost is and back-calculate 10 weeks. Sometimes its hard to know how warm the soil is. But early crocuses are a good sign that it is time. Another sign I'm watching is the daffodils, which are about 6 inches high in my yard.

At my community plot only a mile away its still too cold to sow peas. No sign of crocuses there and daffodils are not even 1 inch. Brrr.

Watching natural cues is called phenology. Its not something I have heard much about from gardeners. I (and most others) go by the calendar. But I love to see the progression of the seasons and how each event comes in its own time.

Here's some of the phenology advice I've come across:
When red winged blackbird females return it is time to plant peas.
When the chickadees build their nests, plant peas and spinach.
When dandelions are blooming plant potatoes, beets, lettuce, spinach and carrots.
When the iris bloom, plant the peppers and eggplants outside.
Plant beets, lettuce, spinach when lilac is in first leaf.
When lilac blooms, plant beans, cukes and squash.
Plant corn when oak leaves are the size of squirrels ears.
Plant your corn when apple blossoms start to fall.



Blogger keewee said...

I read heard much about phenology either. Interesting concept though.

March 30, 2009 10:41 PM

Anonymous Amy said...

I'd never heard a term for it, this is good stuff here!

March 31, 2009 12:41 AM

Anonymous Rowena said...

Weird as this may sound, I've always gone on instinct as the concept of last frost is actually lost on me (grew up on a tropical island). I appreciate all of the wisdom in phenology though, and will sow some lettuce today!

March 31, 2009 4:45 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Radishes have "popped" out here in SW Ohio, and a few of the peas I planted a while ago.

March 31, 2009 7:03 AM

Blogger Daphne said...

I love those natural signs. Though they would never work perfectly for me. I cheat. I often have clear plastic spread across one bed or another in the spring to warm the soil up quicker.

March 31, 2009 7:24 AM

Blogger Dennis said...

I think using natural signs is interesting/fun/cool.....maybe even spiritual. But I'm thinking that there's not much phenology going on in Florida. :( You just plant stuff whenever you want! lol

March 31, 2009 8:48 AM

Blogger Leah said...

Phenology makes sense and seems simpler to me than sitting with my calender, counting backwards and getting my mind all tangled up.
Do you recommend any books on the topic?

March 31, 2009 9:04 AM

Blogger Harmony said...

I have also heard that when the maples are in bloom, you should plant peas. Of course, maples and crocuses are in bloom roughly the same time (our crocuses bloomed maybe a week or two before the maple in the front yard).

Now I wish I had some irises in the yard to tell me when to set out my warm weather plants! Maybe I'll add some to my flower bed this year, so that I'll be prepared for next year. ;-)

(Oh, and you can't tell anything by when the peach tree blooms. At least not our peach tree. It's more likely than not to flower a month before the last frost, and then we're scrambling to cover it to protect the fruit!)

March 31, 2009 9:26 AM

Anonymous MarianLondonUK said...

Well,there you go! I was considering whether I should plant the potatoes this weekend, they are shooting well in the garage but we have had two mild frosts - just zipped home from our workshop to have lunch driving past a patch of bright, sunny, dandelions at the side of the road. Get in, think I will have a quick look at Skippy while I eat to find lo and behold the Dandelions say yes!

March 31, 2009 9:27 AM

Blogger Ottawa Gardener said...

Well it's time to plant my peas then as soon as all that snow has melted... But we do have red winged blackbirds and crocuses.

March 31, 2009 11:45 AM

Anonymous PlantingOaks said...

I love these sorts of things.

They're sort of a holistic hybrid between soil and air temperatures, and day length.

I thinking combining them with dates is a very wise way to do things. I have copied the ones you listed down for future reference.

March 31, 2009 11:54 AM

Blogger Matriarchy said...

Cool! This is a great way to deal with the microclimate of your own yard, using specific natural indicators, instead of general guidelines for your region.

March 31, 2009 5:05 PM

Blogger kathy said...

I can't recommend any books, because I had never heard of this before either. I thought I was inventing or discovering something new. More like reinventing the wheel, I guess.

But I do think its a good way to adjust your planting schedule to your microclimate and to stay in touch with nature.

I am thinking I'll add some phenology to my on-line planting calender someday. Then we can mix up the digital and the natural a bit.

March 31, 2009 6:45 PM

Blogger Dan said...

That is an interesting way to plant. Kind of like watching the weather when you could just stick your head out the window. I have already broke the rules though as I planted spinach last Sunday, oops, hehe.

I have a photo up of the surprise seeds plant on my current blog post. I bet you can pick it out.

March 31, 2009 8:08 PM

Blogger Just Jenn said...

Nancy Bubel mentions Phenology in her book "The New Seed Starters Handbook" which is where I was first introduced to the concept. However she doesn't go into any of the details as you have here. Though the one she does detail is missing from your list: Plant soybeans when oak leaves are the size of mouse ears.

April 01, 2009 1:35 AM

Anonymous taylor said...

These are beautiful! They are so purple the almost look photoshopped!

I'm so thrilled that gardening time is here againg!

April 01, 2009 11:56 AM

Blogger Ali H said...

What beautiful crocuses! Are they saffron crocuses? I dream of growing those but I don't think Sydney, Australia gets cold enough for them.

April 02, 2009 4:22 AM

Anonymous Pearl said...

Ohio State Extension runs a study of phenology gardens (my mom volunteers in one) that you might find interesting.

All the best.

April 02, 2009 8:23 PM

Blogger kathy said...

Thanks Pearl. A very interesting site.

April 02, 2009 10:40 PM


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