As I write this post, my Fort Worth home has an inch of snow on the ground from a storm that passed through two days ago. Texans are feeling downright edgy being cooped up from all that white stuff that has no business this far south. But slowly the days will warm and we will be on our way to the first signs of spring.
The signs that the dark season is losing its grip vary from region to region. Some in the northern latitudes look for the ice breaking up on nearby rivers. Others watch for buds swelling on native trees. And of course there’s Ground Hog Day (February 2) when we get a little crazy from cabin fever and pin our hopes on a fat burrowing creature to forecast the length of winter.
The Top Three Signs in Nature
There are three signs that I have found to be reliable harbingers of spring, no matter which part of the country I’ve lived in. The first one is the return of the song birds. Here in the south, this may start as early as late January.
The house finches are the first to show up at the McCormick Homestead. Ours seems to be a highly desirable nesting spot. Sometimes they try really strange spots to nest, such as on top of the main household circuit breaker box or in the curve of a Christmas wreath I forgot to put away.
The second sign of spring returning is a little more subtle. Around this time I start watching the overnight low temperatures to see how quickly they are trending upward. The daytime highs are more fickle because they can quickly crash when a cold front sweeps down from Canada. But the overnight lows are more affected by the ground temperature. When temperatures rise underfoot, trees and shrubs start pulling up sap and buds swell. Warmer soil temperatures also trigger growth in seeds in the soil that were dormant all winter.
And the third sign? Well, it’s one you’ll only see along country roads. I’m of course referring to roadkill. Sad though it is, a major uptick of country roadkill is a sure sign spring is just around the corner. Hibernating animals awaken with a touch of amnesia, forgetting the road lessons of past years.
Getting Ready for Spring in Your Garden
As soon as you see these signs, I recommend giving some thought to your spring garden. It may still be frozen outside (as it is here) but you can get a head start on the coming season. Here’s a quick list of things you can do this weekend:
- Dig up your stash of last year’s seeds. Sort through them and consider starting some indoors in trays. Make a list of what you want to buy on your next shopping foray online.
- Got power tools that need work? Now’s a great time to get them to the repair shop for sharpening and maintenance.
- Ditto on your hand tools. Many garden repair shops can sharpen your shears, hoes, and other cutting tools. Why make gardening harder than it has to be? A well-sharpened tool is a joy all year long.
- Clean last year’s salt-encrusted pots by soaking in a solution of 1 part white vinegar and 3 parts water. Soak, scrub, and rinse.
- Visit your favorite online seed source and place your order. In recent years there has been a run on seeds that have made many sought after varieties hard to find. Get your order in now.
A few minutes spent here and there while the garden is still dormant will make your spring gardening go well. And to answer the question “is it spring yet?”…as sure as the sun keeps coming up spring in all its glory will be with us soon. That is cause for celebration.