The Timing of Events: Phenology

©2012 Erica Dale Strzepek
©2012 Erica Dale Strzepek

The arrival date was marked on the calendar, seed and garden magazines flooded the post office box, temperatures warmed, and we shed our winter coasts. Telltale signs were all around: Spring had arrived in New England!


With three young boys, each hectic morning begins with breakfast, school lunches, and packing backpacks. During the winter, our routine is drab and resembles a scene from Director Bob Clark’s A Christmas Story, “I can’t put my arms down!” With spring’s arrival however, the mornings are fresh and less bulky. The world seems better listening to birds singing and seeing American Robins hunting for their breakfast of worms while we are eating ours.


Our town refreshes itself too as spring-cleaning begins in gusto. Dull winter lawns and empty lack luster flowerbeds are forgiven as hedgerows of forsythia bud and bloom. Large expanses of petite yellow blooms brighten otherwise still gloomy landscapes.


The blooming forsythia prompted a discussion and lesson in phenology from my husband, a practice second nature in his daily work routine. Merriam-Webster defines phenology as “a branch of science dealing with the relations between climate and periodic biological phenomena (as bird migration or plant flowering).”


“When the forsythia is half-yellow half-green, it’s time to apply pre-emergent weed control.” He continued with his examples, “Annual Bluegrass Weevil’s timing control coincides with the blooming of the Pink Dogwood (cornus florida). The presence of clover (triflolium) can be an indication of low nitrogen. Clover is a legume which fixes its own nitrogen (N) from the air, the most abundant mineral in the air but not available to turf. If you see Broad-leaf Plantain (plantago major) it can be an indication soil compaction.”


His numerous fastidious accounts were enlightening. A more disciplined observation to the cues of nature and our surrounding environment is a lesson we can all benefit from.