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Marking time. . . waiting . . .
It's what we all are doing right now as we wait for the all-clear that life can return to some form of normalcy. Slowing down and settling into a more relaxed daily rhythm can be unsettling if we aren't use to it. But good will come of all this, and it may begin by looking to nature's calendar rather than yours to mark time.
The earth is beginning to awaken, have you noticed? Birds are migrating back north, pollinators are emerging, spring perennials are bursting into bloom. Are you paying attention to what nature is telling us? Nature's cues have long been studied - the timing of such things and matching them with other things is called phenology - the study of the cycles of plant and animal life. Translation: when this happens in the natural world, it's time to do that. . . Here are some examples:
- When you hear the spring peepers, its time to plant peas.
-When the Forsythia bloom, it's time to prune the roses and apply a crab-grass pre-emergent to the lawn.
- When the daffodils bloom, it's time to plant beets and chard.
- When the Serviceberries (Amelanchier) are in bloom, it's time to plant potatoes.
From another source I found these observations:
Some may consider this folklore, but much of phenology is based on soil temperature. day length, and decades of observation - aka being tuned into nature. It can vary region to region, but can be helpful when determining the general timing of flower and vegetable planting.
As I dug deeper into phenology, I learned how important observations really are and how recorded data is used in a much bigger way - to study how urbanization affects phenology and how ecosystems systems change overtime. It's one thing to use phenology for your own benefit, but why not be part of something bigger? You can study what's happening in your own backyard, record your observations, and send the data in to be used by researchers across the country. Nature's Notebook is one such program that 'gathers information on plant and animal phenology to be used for decision-making on local, national and global scales to ensure the continued vitality of our environment.' You can learn more and get involved at https://www.usanpn.org/natures_notebook.
As time marches through another month of being safer-at-home, don't miss the wonders of a world awakening right before your eyes. Use this time to connect with the natural world, tune into the cues from plants and animals, and learn from nature to nurture your garden and even contribute to a bigger movement. Slowing down can be a very good thing.
- Tracy Hankwitz
horticulturist and general manager of Burlington Garden Center
5205 Mormon Road
Burlington, WI 53105