In a Changing Climate You’d Better Understand Phenology

The January/February 2018 issue of Horticulture ran an article about gardening in a changing climate, and boy did we hit a nerve.

Well, maybe it was only the nerve of one reader we jangled. She phoned us to say she was dropping her subscription because we wrote about climate change. Her words exactly were, “What kind of radical leftist did you get to write that article?!” Ouch.

changing climate

The January/February 2018 cover of Horticulture with photo by award-winning garden photographer Clive Nichols.

So rather than run any more of you off with talk of a changing climate, we thought we’d talk about phenology which is a branch of science dealing with the relations between climate and periodic biological phenomena (such as bird migration or plant flowering).

Or, more specifically, we thought we’d share tips with you about how you can use nature’s cues to help you know when to plant or perform certain chores.

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Phenology suggests that when daffodils begin to bloom it is time to sow peas.

Here are just a few natural occurrences you can watch for and the correlating garden task or plant to sow:

• When forsythia bloom, prune roses and fertilize grass
• When aspens have leafed out, plant pansies
• When dandelions bloom, plant potatoes

We’re not going to say ‘climate change’ again, but it seems wise that the more we know about how nature works the less we need to rely on traditional timelines we’ve relied on in the past that might be shifting.


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