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The word phenology is Greek and means "the science of appearances." Phenology is the study of periodic biological phenomena as in the time of sprouting and flowering of plants in the spring, color changes of plants in the fall, bird migration, insect hatches, and animal hibernation are all examples of phenological events. These can be quite accurate indicators that many gardeners plan activities by such as when to plant certain seeds, watch for insects and predicting weather. Phenology can truly be more than just a hobby for observant gardeners, it can become a way of connecting better with nature for all of us especially during times of climate changes. While phenology is not infallible it is certainly worth learning more about and perhaps this collection of observations may help you or at least entertain you.

The Japanese began recording the first bloom of the cherry trees in 812 A.D. while Carl Linnaeus, the father of plant taxonomy, was one of the first scientists to begin recording phenological observations.

“All through the long winter, I dream of my garden. On the first day of spring, I dig my fingers deep into the soft earth. I can feel its energy, and my spirits soar.” -Helen Hayes


Eastern tent caterpillar eggs hatch at the time of bud break on the flowering crabapple and wild plum. These trees happen to be their favorite hosts. This is the best time to look for and begin controlling tent caterpillars. Far better than waiting until you see they are defoliating your plants.

Plant potatoes when the shadbush flowers. This is also the approximate time that gypsy moth egg hatch occurs.

When the yellow forsythia and crocus are blooming it's the time to prune roses and fertilize the lawn.

Tomatoes can be set out when lily-of-the-valley is in full bloom.

When Canada thistle is in bloom take heed, apple maggot adults are abundant and susceptible fruit should be protected.

If apple trees bloom in April the crop will be plentiful- if they bloom in May the crop will be poor.

When the sun goes to bed red, 'Twill rain tomorrow, it's said.

When the moon rises red and appears large, with clouds, expect rain in twelve hours.

Dandelion blossoms close before a rain.

If toads appear in large numbers, expect rain.

When stones sweat, rain you'll get.

Wells gurgle and yield muddy water before a storm.

Mist rising from the pond, fair weather tomorrow.

When peach and plum trees are in full bloom plant hardy crops.

When you see new growth on green ash, grapes and bur oaks it is safe to plant tender vines, annuals and perennials.

"When bees to distance wing their flight,
Days are warm and skies are bright.
But when the flight ends near their home,
Stormy weather is sure to come."

Plant peppers and eggplant outside when bearded iris is in bloom.

Locusts sing when the air is hot and dry.

In areas of our country where wild chicory opens it's blue blooms on summer roadsides, it's a signal that it's open season for squash vine borers. These borers kill more squash and pumpkins than any other pest. The moth is active for about two weeks, during which it lays its eggs on susceptible plants.

When elm leaves are as big as a shilling,
Plant kidney beans, if to plant 'em you're willing.
When elm leaves are big as a penny,
You must plant kidney beans if you mean to have any.

The common lilac is in the early stages of it's blooming cycle at the time that crabgrass seed will germinate.

When the gnats swarm, rain and warmer weather is said to be coming.

When black locust and Vanhoutte spirea are blooming, plant cold tender seedlings of: zinnia, marigolds, tomatoes, and peppers.

Trees are easier to fell when the moon is on the wane.

Lilac Borers: At the time of full bloom in the common lilac it is time to set out pheromone traps for the Lilac borer.

When catalpas and mock oranges bloom, sow fall cabbage and broccoli seeds.

When fishermen are sitting on the riverbank instead of on their bait buckets, the soil is warm enough to plant.

Wasps building nests in exposed places indicate a dry season.

When hornets build nests near the ground a harsh winter is expected.

Crabgrass, though hated by gardeners, does have something to tell us about the soil temperature. The crabgrass seeds germinate when the soil temperature at a depth of 4" stabilizes at 55°F. This soil temperature can coincide with the time the forsythias are in bloom.

The time to fertilize your lawn in the spring is when the forsythias begin to bloom.

When maples are beginning to unfurl their leaves plant perennials.

Zuni Indian Sayings: When the white butterfly comes, comes also the summer.
When the white butterfly flies from the southwest, expect rain.

Spring has not sprung until you can step on 12 daisies with one foot.

When the daffodils begin to bloom it is time to plant peas.

Grasshopper eggs hatch at about the time the common purple lilac blooms.

Plant corn when oak leaves are the size of a squirrels' ear.

Okay, we all know that planting corn has nothing to do with the size of oak leaves, squirrel’s ears or apple blossoms falling. However over time, farmers have learned that when oak leaves have reached this size, the soil is warm enough for corn seed to germinate without rotting in the soil.

When the blossoms of the apple tree begin to fall, plant your corn seeds.

Mexican bean beetle larvae appear when foxglove flowers open.

When the common lilac plant has leafed out plant lettuce, peas and other cool weather varieties. When it's flowers are in full bloom plant beans and squash. When its' flowers have faded plant cucumbers and squash.

As soon as frost is out of ground plant spinach, radishes and broad beans.

When the flowering dogwood  is in peak bloom it is time to plant tomatoes, early corn and peppers. Another is to plant tomatoes and peppers when daylilies start to bloom.

Direct seed your morning glories when maple trees have full size leaves.

Seeing caterpillars about later than usual in fall indicates a milder winter.

Plant pansies, snapdragons, and other hardy annuals after the aspen and chokecherry trees are leafed out.

Japanese beetles often arrive when morning glory vines finally start to take off and begin to climb.

When hornets build nests near the ground a harsh winter is expected.

Plant morning glory seeds in the garden when the maple trees leaves are full size.

Plant aboveground crop vegetables on a waxing moon (from new to full). Plant underground crop vegetables and flowering bulbs on a waning moon (from full to new).

When dandelions are blooming plant beet, lettuce, spinach and carrot seeds.

Silver maples show the lining of their leaves before a storm.

Slugs will come out in droves prior to rainfall.

Expect rain when dogs chew on grass, sheep turn face first into the wind, oxen sniff the air, and hogs are restless.

Dandelions blossoms close before there will be rain.

When the aspens and chokecherries have leafed out there will be no more hard frosts but light ones may still occur. Our own aspens have been roughly 75% correct in this year after year.

When the locusts bloom in May, it will turn cold and rainy.

When you hear spring peepers (a type of frog), it’s time to plant peas.


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