Forysthia-Photo courtesy of

Forysthia-Photo courtesy of


‘The study of cyclic and seasonal natural phenomena in relation to climate and plant and animal life.’

Phenology is an interesting science that has never been officially proven but ascribes to what I believe-paying attention to what is going on outside in nature at certain times of the year can sometimes serve as cues for the gardener for when to plant. Is it fool proof? Na, but neither is weather forecasting and I pay attention to that too.

Here is a list of tips I’ve compiled from many sources. Are they all true? Probably not, but wouldn’t it be interesting if we pay attention, write down our observations and make our own phenology for our local conditions in our gardens. I’m going to give it a try for a few years and see if I SEE any similarities to these tips below. Some of them are sort of humorous so I hope you enjoy them.

  • Plant lettuce, spinach, beets and carrots when dandelions are blooming. (what? we allow weeds to be in our gardens?)
  • Plant lettuce, spinach, and peas when the lilacs show their first true leaves or when the daffodils bloom.
  • Plant spinach, radishes and broad beans as soon as frost is out of the ground. (how does frost get out of the ground?)
  • Plant peas when the daffodils begin to bloom.
  • Plant beans when lilacs are in full bloom. (not sure of this one around here-seems early)
  • Plant cucumbers and squash when the lilacs fade.
  • Grasshopper eggs hatch when the lilac blooms.
  • Plant tomatoes, peppers, and early corn when daylilies start to bloom (I’m going to watch this one closely as I have daylilies)
  • Set tomatoes out when lily-of-the-valley is in full bloom. (Do any of you have this one?)
  • Plant corn when elm leaves are the size of a squirrel’s ear or when oak leaves are the size of a mouse’s. (Ok, I’ll just get out the ruler and measure those ears and compare)
  • Plant perennials when maple leaves begin to unfurl
  • Prune roses when the forsythia blooms (this one makes sense)
  • Plant pansies, snapdragons, and other hardy annuals after the aspens and chokecherry trees are leafed out. This indicates no more hard frosts.
  • Plant annuals when you see new growth on green ash, grapes, and bur oaks.
  • Plant annuals when peaches and plums are in full bloom.
  • Plant morning glory seeds when maples are fully leafed out.
  • When Morning Glories start to climb, Japanese Beetles arrive.
  • When Foxgloves open, Mexican bean beetles appear.
  • When the locusts bloom in May, it will turn cold and rainy (I wish)
  • Corn-“Knee high by the Fourth of July” (yes, yes!)
  • Plant peppers and eggplant outside when bearded iris is in bloom. (I’ll be watching closely on this one too)
  • When lilac plants have 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.
  • When yellow forsythia and crocus bloom, prune roses and fertilize the lawn.

2 comments on “Phenology

  1. Jill Foster says:

    I used to have lily-of-the-valley and will watch to see if any survived. (Took out the tree they were under.) So this year might not be a good guide, but I will watch anyway. Jill


  2. Peter Burke says:

    I printed out the list. I will watch more closely.


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