At least that is what the calendar says. With the crazy weather we have had this winter who can be certain anymore.
Mother Nature’s rollercoaster goes from 0 to 80 degrees in less than 24 hours. It is an incredible sight to see the weather go through all four seasons in a single week. Sometimes, it seems as though it went through them in a matter of a few hours.
While rapidly changing weather conditions are sometimes an inconvenience for us as we sit in our climate controlled houses and drive in our climate controlled cars, the wild spring weather poses a whole different set of problems for our furry and feathered neighbors.
Spring is in the air with the flowers and trees starting to bud and bloom. The spring and summer birds are returning from their winter havens in the warmer climates, many times to be met with a full winter assault from a brisk winter wind blowing in, or even a snow squall here and there.
The mood swings of Spring are nothing new, but with each passing day they have the potential to have far reaching impacts where wildlife is concerned. The gardeners among us know all too well of the dangers of a killing frost and the need to be ever vigilant over tender young plants as they begin to plant their gardens for the summer and fall harvest.
The forest and fields are nature’s gardens and, unfortunately, they are set on an internal timer and have no over-watching steward to save them in the event of a late frost. Wildlife of all shapes and sizes rely on these gardens every year for food and sustenance to get them through the upcoming lean times of winter.
Luckily, Mother Nature has had the foresight to not put all her eggs in one basket, so to say. Different plants sprout and bloom at different times, thus protecting them from the temperature swings that may come by on any given week.
Soft mast trees, like apples, pears and paw-paws, will flower and bloom on a different schedule than the hard wood oak and hickory trees. This helps make sure that one cold snap won’t completely wipe out fruit production for the season.
Another beautiful thing about the design of the amazing garden around us are the mountains themselves. The various angles, elevations, and aspects of the mountains themselves play a huge role in what grows where and how they can handle changing weather.
Spring weather is unpredictable at best, but by scattering plantings around, Mom Nature has taken advantage of the protection from the elements that the mountains provide. Temperatures on a cold spring morning can often vary up to 10 degrees from the bottom of the mountain to the top and this temperature difference can be the difference between the tender buds being frozen solid or producing a bumper crop.
So far, it is a little early to tell how Nature’s garden has made it through the many cycles of the seasons this Spring, but time will tell. One late frost can seriously impact the production of this garden and when the time comes the grocery store may be pretty sparse when the animals need it most next fall.
Wildlife have adapted to deal with not only the rapidly changing weather of spring, but, also, the bountiful and lean times that a whirlwind weather pattern of spring can propagate later in the year. So, even though the calendar says that it is officially Spring, I don’t think it is quite time to plant all those tender young sprouts in the garden.
Nature has taken plenty of precautions to help assure there will be food on the shelves come this fall. So, let’s keep our fingers crossed that all is not lost to a late season visit by old Jack Frost and his winter time friends.
Roger Wolfe is an Outdoor Columnist for Civitas Media. For story ideas or comments he can be reached at [email protected]