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Thursday, October 14, 2010

Old Wives' Tales and Gardens

We're enjoying a resurgence of warm weather after being smacked by cold and rain. With Halloween just days away Colorado is in the middle of a classic Indian summer. The freezing temperatures earlier in the week would almost seem like a distant memory, if it weren't for the obvious blackening of the basil and death of the tomatoes. Weather is a fickle foe when it comes to gardening. Television forecasters have honed their craft to the point that they can brag about 90 percent accuracy, but we're always looking for secrets to bring our prediction closer to 100.

For centuries people have observed their surroundings to foretell the weather and other events. At the base of Pikes Peak, we in Colorado Springs use the mountain for signs of the future. It is said that exactly one month after the first noticeable snow on the peak we will experience snow in the city. This is a surprisingly accurate predictor. I've kept track of it for over a decade and it is true within just a day or two, well within the definition of a month. Based on long-range forecasts by the National Weather Service, it will hold true again this year.

This has me thinking about other Old Wives' Tales as they apply to weather and gardening so I did a little surfing to find what else the web has to offer from other people and places. They may not hold true for all regions, and may not be true at all. Surprisingly some of them can be supported by scientific evidence. It's intriguing to imagine how many people follow the advice that's been passed down through the years.

Here are some of the superstitions, observations, and tales I uncovered:

"It's time to plant beets, lettuce and peas when the first leaves appear on the lilac bush." "Plant corns, beans, and squash when the lilac blooms." "Plant corn when the apple blossoms fall." " Plant beets, spinach, and carrots when the dandelions are blooming." "Plant cabbage when the dogwood is in bloom." "Plant corn when the oak leaves are the size of a squirrel's ear."

"When leaves show their undersides, be sure that rain betides." "Rain will come when roaches fly." "If you see stars at night you'll wake up to a sunny day." "If cows in the pasture are lying down, it's going to rain." "When dogs eat grass a storm is coming." "When spiders weave by noon, fair weather will follow soon. "When crickets chirp loud, they'll not be a cloud." "A ring around the moon means rain real soon." "Dew on the grass, no rain will pass." "A cow with its tail to the west makes the weather best." "If birds feed in a storm it will rain for a long time."

"It will be a bad winter if crickets are in the chimney." "A long hot summer means a long cold winter." "When the first cicada of summer sings, there will be frost in six weeks." "To calculate the temperature count a crickets chirps over 14 seconds and add 14."

Of course, I'm not recommending or endorsing any of these thoughts, but many seem plausible. Others are clearly just fun to read. These certainly can't be proven:  "If the first butterfly you see in the year is white, you will have good luck all year"; "If a young girl catches a ladybird and then releases it, the direction it flies away will be the direction from where her future husband will come"; "A wish made on the first robin of spring will be granted". Wouldn't it be great if they really were true?

What do you use to predict the weather or schedule your garden activities? Is a tried and true method you use really a superstition? Or is it the result of careful observation? Scientific evidence has validated that animals and plants react to changing weather conditions. What do you write in your gardener's notebook to help you forecast your gardening future? Think about the stories and tales you've heard and share them with other gardeners. It can be fun and may be helpful.
We're enjoying a resurgence of warm weather after being smacked by cold and rain. With Halloween just days away Colorado is in the middle of a classic Indian summer. The freezing temperatures earlier in the week would almost seem like a distant memory, if it weren't for the obvious blackening of the basil and death of the tomatoes. Weather is a fickle foe when it comes to gardening. Television forecasters have honed their craft to the point that they can brag about 90 percent accuracy, but we're always looking for secrets to bring our prediction closer to 100.

For centuries people have observed their surroundings to foretell the weather and other events. At the base of Pikes Peak, we in Colorado Springs use the mountain for signs of the future. It is said that exactly one month after the first noticeable snow on the peak we will experience snow in the city. This is a surprisingly accurate predictor. I've kept track of it for over a decade and it is true within just a day or two, well within the definition of a month. Based on long-range forecasts by the National Weather Service, it will hold true again this year.

This has me thinking about other
Old Wives' Tales as they apply to weather and gardening so I did a little surfing to find what else the web has to offer from other people and places. They may not hold true for all regions, and may not be true at all. Surprisingly some of them can be supported by scientific evidence. It's intriguing to imagine how many people follow the advice that's been passed down through the years.

Here are some of the superstitions, observations, and tales I uncovered:

"It's time to plant beets, lettuce and peas when the first leaves appear on the lilac bush." "Plant corns, beans, and squash when the lilac blooms." "Plant corn when the apple blossoms fall." " Plant beets, spinach, and carrots when the dandelions are blooming." "Plant cabbage when the dogwood is in bloom." "Plant corn when the oak leaves are the size of a squirrel's ear."

"When leaves show their undersides, be sure that rain betides." "Rain will come when roaches fly." "If you see stars at night you'll wake up to a sunny day." "If cows in the pasture are lying down, it's going to rain." "When dogs eat grass a storm is coming." "When spiders weave by noon, fair weather will follow soon. "When crickets chirp loud, they'll not be a cloud." "A ring around the moon means rain real soon." "Dew on the grass, no rain will pass." "A cow with its tail to the west makes the weather best." "If birds feed in a storm it will rain for a long time."

"It will be a bad winter if crickets are in the chimney." "A long hot summer means a long cold winter." "When the first cicada of summer sings, there will be frost in six weeks." "To calculate the temperature count a crickets chirps over 14 seconds and add 14."

Of course, I'm not recommending or endorsing any of these thoughts, but many seem plausible. Others are clearly just fun to read. These certainly can't be proven:  "If the first butterfly you see in the year is white, you will have good luck all year"; "If a young girl catches a ladybird and then releases it, the direction it flies away will be the direction from where her future husband will come"; "A wish made on the first robin of spring will be granted". Wouldn't it be great if they really were true?

What do you use to predict the weather or schedule your garden activities? Is a tried and true method you use really a superstition? Or is it the result of careful observation? Scientific evidence has validated that animals and plants react to changing weather conditions. What do you write in your gardener's notebook to help you forecast your gardening future? Think about the stories and tales you've heard and share them with other gardeners. It can be fun and may be helpful.

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