Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Seasons of the Year

(This is a post I wrote for work and decided I liked enough to post here.  Yes, I'm double-dipping.)

We were all taught the seasons of the year when we were kids—winter, spring, summer, and fall.  And we were taught these seasons regardless of where we lived, or if we really experienced those seasons.  Whether you lived in Missouri, Alaska, Nevada, or Florida, everyone cut out tulips in May (even if there is still snow on the ground), and drew pictures of snowmen in December (even if your orange tree is still producing).

Most of the time, we don't think much about this, except as a joke.  When I lived in northeastern Ohio, we joked that we had four yearly seasons—"not yet winter, winter, still winter, and road repair."  Personally, I found that this captured the movement of the year far more accurately, while also reminding you that it didn't matter what time of year it was, you were still going to have problems on the roads.

Gardeners in particular operate on a very different set of seasons.  We understand that non-gardeners don't really get this—it's more like a secret gardener-language.  We invoke completely different seasons that the Standard Four, like "last frost date," "as soon as ground can be worked," "midsummer," and "mulching".  In the Midwest, at least, we have as many different gardening seasons as the Inuit have words for snow.  

I've been working on cataloging (as best I can) the various seasons we experience here at WVC, and I thought I'd share my observations with you.  I think, when I started this list, I really meant for it to be helpful; I'm no longer sure that's the case, but I do hope it's still entertaining.  Enjoy!

The Seasons (starting in calendar month January)

  • "Seed catalog" season:  technically this season opens in mid-December, for the particularly astute seed purveyors who realize that gardeners are now seriously garden-deprived and increasingly irrational, making the Christmas gift-giving season a potential goldmine for them 
  • "What do you mean you haven't gotten your first shipment of potting mix in yet?" season:  roughly late-January to mid-February in our area.  Later in the year we realize that, in general, this is really saving us from ourselves since it is still way to early to start those tomatoes 
  • "No, really, it's still frozen" season:  what the gardener's spouse/significant other says to us when they see us out there, jumping up and down on the spading fork in some desperate attempt to turn the soil.  Or, February. 
  • "Favorite nursery reopens for the season!" season:  better than Christmas.  The smarter of the gardeners open savings accounts in October to offset the damage done this weekend.  Mid-March.
  • "*Gasp* It's so beautiful!" season:  when you finally do manage to turn that first spading fork of soil.  5-seconds in late March. 
  • "*Sigh* It's so wet" season:  immediately follows "It's beautiful!" 
  • "Planting" season:  runs roughly from late-March until June, and depends on a couple of variables, like rain, dryness, late frosts, rain, swampiness, work interference, rain, slow seedlings, rain, and rain. 
  • "Weeding" season:  from mid-June until the day you die. 
  • "Canning & preserving" season:  runs concurrently with "weeding" 
  • Midsummer, or "Fall seedling starts" 
  • "You threw away those old windows?!  Those were for the coldframes I was finally going to build!" season:  self-explanatory 
  • "No, I don't rake leaves, they're mulch for the garden" season:  October 
  • "Next year I'll do everything right" season:  November.   
  • "Early seed catalog" season:  December.    

And then we begin the cycle again....


  1. You have it down pat! We have exactly the same seasons here in Northern California! :)

  2. Apart from the months it is pretty similar here (not as much snow/frost). Weeding season.......yes, not doing that yet, just watching them grow in the winter sun!

    viv in nz

  3. Those are the seasons in upstate NY as well! Only we called the last one "construction".

    I like your listing -- SO TRUE.

  4. Funny but if you should learn about 4 season gardening as practiced and written about by Eliot Coleman, you would have even more seasons, you would have fresh veggies almost all months.