I think we have to add another season with a new name to the Gulf Coast gardening vernacular – “Un-Winter”. It seems that is what the winter of 2015-2016 is turning out to be.
We can’t say they didn’t warn us. The weather pros predicted the largest and most influential El Nino in recent history. While they are often ridiculed for getting it wrong, they got it right this time. We were advised to anticipate a wetter and warmer winter than usual, and we got it.
I have ripening plums on one low chill plum tree this day, February 11. I have thumb to golf ball sized plums on another. Everything is blooming. I have seen this before, so it is not that unusual a sign on its own. You can fool a fruit tree with anything unseasonable – drought, unexpected cold dips or hot spikes. It is the other signs nature is sending that have me more alert.
I have been seeing Crane Flies, sometimes mistakenly called “mosquito hawks”, for over two weeks. These have long been considered a sign of spring. In fact the Old Farmer’s Almanac once referred to them as a sign that “spring is fast approaching”.
Today, a neighbor saw the first snake of the season. Snakes are not usually out this early. By itself, I wouldn’t think that much of it, but added to the other signs, it matters. And lastly, drones are starting to populate the hives. Drones are driven out before the onset of winter. They have no hive duties and are just an extra mouth to feed. Nature is tough. Drones reappear in spring, when the hive is ready to expand and the swarming season approaches when they are needed to mate with new queens.
Taken together, and added to the forecast of balmy days and mild nights, it sure sounds like we are getting a message. As a long time Gulf Coast gardener, I am usually pretty cautious. I have experienced those March frosts and un-predicted Ninja freezes that sneak up on us in the night. But I am also a watcher of nature signs, and Nature seems to be saying that even Un-Winter is coming to an end.
Nurseries are filling with plants. Tomato growers are already planting out. It just feels like it is time. I’ll keep the frost cloth ready in the shed, but I’m ready to go. I’m also wondering what this may mean for summer, but we’ll visit that later.
Other than the temperature, what signs of early spring have you seen??