The Vernal Equinox: It’s the First Day of Spring!

 

Today is the first day of spring! Woo-hoo…spring has sprung in the Mid-Atlantic gardening region. But quite honestly, we didn’t have much of a winter so we don’t really have the same enthusiasm as we had two years ago after “Snowapalooza”. But even still, it’s good to know that sustained warm temperatures are right around the corner. For those who don’t know, I’d like to quickly explain what determines our seasons on the calendar:

The Vernal Equinox – March 21 – SPRING – this is the first time in the calendar year when the hours of daylight and darkness are equal…12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of darkness.

The Summer Solstice – June 21 – SUMMER – this is the longest period of daylight in the year…from December 22 until June 21 the days get longer and longer.

The Autumnal Equinox – September 21 – AUTUMN – this is the second time in the calendar year when the hours of daylight and darkness are equal…12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of darkness.

The Winter Solstice – December 21 – WINTER – this is the shortest period of daylight in the year.

Plants are blooming like crazy now. The trees are blooming, the tulips, the forsythia, the grape hyacinths…you name it and it’s blooming. I thought that I would share a few pictures of the plants that are blooming in the central Virginia area.

Camellia (this one fell into a bed of creeping jenny)

vernal equinox

Redbud (Cercis canadensis

vernal equinox

Daphne odora

vernal equinox

Helleborus orientalis

verna; equinox

Flowering Almond (Prunus mume)

vernal equinox

I hope and pray that we don’t get a hard freeze now…that would be devastating to plants of all sorts. I remember that happening while I was a student at Virginia Tech. Trees had to have all sorts of branches removed as the freeze even killed much of the previous season’s growth. Fingers crossed that doesn’t happen this year! What’s going on in your area? What plants are blooming in your hometown? Leave me a comment below or e-mail me at stacey@midatlanticgardening.com. Happy gardening!

Gardening Calendar: December

 

So it’s finally December in the garden…the time of the year when you can reflect on what you really enjoyed about the garden this past year, look at what needs improving for the upcoming year and ponder any new gardening projects. But there are tasks that are perfect for accomplishing in December and that’s what we’ll look at today.

 

  • By now, most of your deciduous plants should have been taken down by the freezing temperatures. If your perennials have turned into brown clumps of mush, go ahead and remove the foliage and add it to your compost pile. If some of your deciduous perennials still have green leaves, it is best to leave them so that the plant can continue to photosynthesize and add to its stores for next year.
  • Depending on how meticulous you want your garden to be, you can remove any fallen leaves from the bases of shrubs to allow for good air circulation around the stems. If you have had fungal problems on your shrubs, it’s a pretty good bet that the spores are on the fallen leaves so removing them now can save you a ton of headaches in the spring. Unless your compost gets really hot, it’s wiser to bag the diseased leaves to avoid risking spreading the disease around.
  • If you’re like me, I tend to wait until the majority of the tree leaves have fallen before cleaning them up so now is the time to work on this project. I have woods behind me so I am able to blow them into the woods…it also serves as a sort of stockpile where I can go to obtain leaves when I need them for the compost pile or for mulching the veggie garden. If you have a bagging mower, chop them up and then use them as mulch…see my Healthy Soil article for more information.
  • The biggest chore for December is probably pruning. Now that the stems are bare, it is the perfect time to remove crossing branches on trees and shrubs. You can also remove wayward branches on evergreen shrubs such as hollies and osmanthus. If you are looking to shape your hedges, you’re best to wait until we get closer to spring. Severe pruning will often force new vegetative growth that is easily killed by freezes and late spring frosts.
  • The most exciting gardening chore for me in December is poring over seed catalogs that inundate my mailbox beginning in mid-November. My mind races as I read the descriptions of ‘Amish Paste’ tomatoes and ‘Mandurian Round’ cucumbers. While the sheer number of cultivars are overwhelming, I still make list after list of those I’d like to try. I try to pare it down to a reasonable number, but I am usually met with failure…last year I grew 13 different types of tomatoes.

 

The gardening calendar for December is relatively short but this is just the beginning of an ever-growing list of garden chores that need to be accomplished. By no means is it exhaustive…I’d love to hear what your plans are for your garden in December. Please share them in the comments section so that other gardeners can benefit. If you have any thoughts or concerns, please e-mail me at stacey@midatlanticgardening.com. Happy gardening!