A GROWING CONCERN: It’s the right time for the right chores

I STARTED LAST week’s article with a “weather changing” comment: Every month the weather changes.

This is why you have caught me numerous times referring to early, mid-late whatever.

Every season has an early, mid and late trimester. Every trimester has an early mid and late. So three seasons times three trimesters times three subdivisions means 36 ten-day cycles.

Today is day 10, the end of mid-early autumn. If I may take a few moments to grab onto this time period, I will explain this apparently chaotic system of early, mid, late and why this is so important to me, my goal and also is important to you.

The early segment of any season displays the quintessential characteristics of its season. So late September and October are a blaze of color, have Indian summer days, mixed rain and sun, and beautiful country walks.

The end of December and January possess the coldest, darkest days, bare trees and a likelihood of snow.

April brings daffodils, tulips, flowering bushes, warmer days and greening trees, while the end of June and early July herald in the summer flowers and garden.

Seasons tend to represent themselves stereotypically in the first third of their yearly appearances.

Understanding this should first guide the gardener in making a job list and prioritizing individual tasks.

Pruning early fall is not wise, whereas the weather then is able to grow “tender” growth for winter damage. Rather, the warmer, nicer days of early fall are good for flower and vegetable work.

Then when it rains, transplanting or grass over-seeding, for example, could begin.

The beginning of winter with its cold, dark short days is not the ideal time for gardeners to be out tilling the garden or making a berm. They are however the best time of year for heavy pruning, deep shaping of fruit trees, large trees or bush relocation.

The cold and short days have the plant and peak dormancy. Weather has disease and insects in check or dead.

Likewise the beginning of spring, March 28, is not the time of heavy garden planting (still very wet and cold) but rather the time to till, cultivate, fertilize and edge.

But the prioritization of gardening chores is only one side of the “time of year” coin.

The flip side is ornamental response. All who know me, any who have heard me speak, know I am obsessed with this early, mid, late business.

For this reason, to become horticulturally known, for your yard to become the envy of all, and the reason Butchart Gardens is world famous, the said property should display ornamental character in several different plants every one of the 36 ten-day cycles of the year.

Now let’s relate this back to time of the season. Plants that I would plug in to mid-summer and late summer would be drought tolerant.

For all of us, the end of July and August tend to be very dry. Knowing this character of the end-of-season helps us pick plants not only for their response time but that are well suited for the conditions.

Understand there is no better adage in gardening than the “right plant for the right spot.”

This is why I love white birch. Even though they are the first trees to leaf out, displaying a lime green color that matures to glossy green, and the filter light of summer gives way to light, bright yellow fall response, it is the white and black patterns of the trunk and branches along with the gray of winter that makes them a perfect blend of conditions and mood. I use birches primarily as a fall-winter response, so birches are a year-round tree.

Simpler examples would be using cool and tolerant plants from November to April. Then selecting early, mid and late types of spring bulbs for the next 4 months would be a perfect blend of weather and the seasons.

Wow, so it took all that just to say, “Do garden jobs when the weather is best for them and plan your plants to color and bloom all year round in harmony with the weather conditions of that time.”

Sharpen shovels and tools. The next 30 days is the ideal transplanting period. Hand trowels are best cleaned up now and you can plant new perennials.


Andrew May is a freelance writer and ornamental horticulturist who dreams of having Clallam and Jefferson counties nationally recognized as “Flower Peninsula USA.” Send him questions c/o Peninsula Daily News, P.O. Box 1330, Port Angeles, WA 98362, or email [email protected] (subject line: Andrew May).

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