Spring has Sprung – for Some

I’d forgotten that for much of the Northern Hemisphere that today is the first day of Spring, 1st of March .  I grew up learning that Spring (or Autumn in Australia) started on March 1st but when I arrived to the US I was told I had been misinformed.  Here in America people understand Spring to start on March 20, nearly 3 full weeks after I did.  According to the Farmer’s Almanac we are all correct (much like #thedress – we are all right.  Huzzah!).  Here’s why.

The differences in the dates have to do with whether you are speaking Astronomically or Meteorologically.  If you are in to the stars and have an Astronomical view of the seasons (as it turns out Americans do) then you are looking for Spring to start on the Vernal (Spring) Equinox, when there are the same amount of day and night hours in the day – which this year is on March 20.  If you are in to the weather and look to annual temperature cycles instead of the position of the earth relative to the sun, as is the rest of the world, then Spring for you starts on March 1.  Since I’m on team ‘Rest Of The World’ my Spring starts today.

Spring Bluebirds

Spring Bluebirds – pic from http://globe-views.com/dcim/dreams/spring/spring-06.jpg

I’ve got to say, it doesn’t feel much like Spring.  We’ve had snow in Charlotte (!!) this week, more snowdays and delayed school starts for the kids, cold cold temperatures, freezing rain, and burst water pipes.  Good times good times.

But I have seen bluebirds over the last 10 days or so, particularly when I’m on my long runs early on Saturday mornings.  And I have seen daffodils blooming.  My apple trees have been putting out buds and the crocuses are doing their crocus thang.  All definite signs that Spring is near.

The Farmer’s Almanac suggests a few other indicators of Spring:

One swallow does not make a spring.

Bluebirds are a sign of spring; warm weather and gentle south breezes they bring.

In spring, no one thinks of the snow that fell last year.

Don’t say that spring has come until you can put your foot on nine daisies.

Spring-time sweet!
The whole Earth smiles, thy coming to greet.

Spring is also the time when worms begin to emerge from the earth, ladybugs land on screen doors, green buds appear, birds chirp, and flowers begin to bloom.

Is it Spring yet for you?  Or Autumn for my Antipodean buddies?  What signs of Spring have you seen?  Do you think you can say Spring has come if you can only find 8 daisies to crush under your foot?

When Life Gives You Lemons … Grow More Lemons

From the When Life Gives You Lemons…  Series.

Part 2: When Life Gives You Lemons … Grow More Lemons

or How to Pot Up a Lemon Tree

1. Pick what kind of lemon tree you want to grow.

Since we’ll be growing our lemon tree in a pot we’ll need to pick a small-er growing lemon variety.  Some lemon tree varieties that do well in pots are:

  1. Improved Meyer Lemon
  2. Lisbon
  3. Eureka

Of these three my favourite is the Improved Meyer Lemon.  If you have ever tasted a Meyer Lemon you wouldn’t have to ask me why.  The fruit is much sweeter than the lemons you buy at the store, still with a classically fresh lemon tartness but with none of the bitterness.  You can almost (almost) eat them like an orange they are so good.  They skins are thinner, too, I find, and are great for zesting.  There is very little pith to worry about.  The pith is where much of the bitterness of the lemon is found.

Potted Meyer Lemon tree.  So pretty.

Potted Meyer Lemon tree. So pretty. (pic from homeanddecor.ca)

I have found that with a little TLC my Meyer Lemon will produce heavily.  The picture of the tree above doesn’t surprise me although I know it doesn’t look real.  In my first year my Meyer lemon tree gave me 14 lemons. 14!  Not bad for a baby, huh?  Now, the second year I got zero (I grumble about that here) but moving forward I expect my lemon tree to produce beautifully just like in the picture.  TIme will tell.

You may also have a choice in the shape of the tree you buy.  I bought a standard tree, which means it had been trained to look like a ball on a tall stick.  I think it looks more elegant although it will take more upkeep to maintain the standard shape.

2. Choose your pot.

A full grown lemon tree can grow 6′-10′ tall although they will likely be smaller when kept in a pot.  But still, a fairly sizable pot is needed, maybe 15-20 gallon pot to start.  Lemons need good drainage so make sure there are plenty of drain holes in the bottom.  As you’ll be moving it around pay heed to how heavy the pot is.  And pick a blue one.

3. Choose Your Growing Medium

I know it seems strange to talk about the growing medium but I promise you that a little time and research now will pay big dividends later.  You can buy a ready made citrus potting mix with different additives such as peat moss, perlite or vermiculite, just ensure the soil is light enough to drain the water well.  If you are like me you might want to just make your own.  I like a recipe I found on a citrus growing forum long ago and wrote down:

Citrus Potting Mix Recipe

  • 1/3 MiracleGro Vegetable Mix
  • 1/3 small bark chips
  • 1/3 perlite (although I use vermiculite as that is what I had on hand).

4. Potting Up the Tree

When transplanting a lemon tree I like to shake off most of the old potting soil before replanting, just because I know what is in my potting medium recipe and I know it works for my environment.  Your lemon tree may also come bare-rooted like this one from William Sonoma.  The sawdust is just to try to keep the roots moist during transit.  You will shake them all off before you plant this tree.

Bare root meyer lemon tree sold by Williams Sonoma

Bare root meyer lemon tree sold by Williams Sonoma

Before planting examine the roots.  Cut off any that are damaged or broken, or are circling around and look root bound.  Also trim off any broken or dead branches you might see.

Place the bare root tree in your pot, gently packing in the soil around the roots.  It is important to get the height right.  Plant so the roots are just below the surface but that the crown is just above it.  Water in well to remove any air spaces and to settle the plant in nicely.

NEXT UP: When Life Gives You Lemons … Take Care of Your Lemons

WHEN Is Spring Coming?

Sit Down, Punxsutawney Phil

It was Groundhog Day on Monday.  Did you tune in to see what Punxsutawney Phil had to say?  Honestly, I completely forgot all about it but this year he …

Wait, do you even know about Punxsutawney Phil?  Let me slow down, Dear Readers.  For those who are not familiar with this whole ritual let me fill you in.  I’ll warn you in advance…. It is batty.

Punxsutawney Phil is a groundhog who lives in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania (… pause … m’kay …).  Folklore tells that each year on February 2nd if it is cloudy when Phil the Groundhog comes out of his burrow then Spring will come early (really?  wha???).  If, when he comes out, it is sunny he will see his shadow and run back into his burrow thereby foretelling an additional six weeks of wintery weather until Spring finally arrives. (….)  Phil even has his own webpage if you are interested (stunned silence …  I know.  I know).

Punxsutawney Phil 2015

Punxsutawney Phil 2015

This year, after much pomp and ceremony, it was determined that Phil ‘saw his shadow’ and therefore predicted 6 more weeks of winter.  For what it is worth, our fair city’s own resident groundhog, Queen Charlotte, ‘saw her shadow’ and predicted another 6 weeks for winter for us, too.

I say “BOOOOOOOOOOOOO!”.  Enough of the cold stuff!  Gah!  And I was feeling kinda bummed hearing this news and thinking of how interminable winters in the northern hemisphere feel.  Huff huff grump grump.

And then I looked around.  And I saw signs of Spring in my very own garden!  Definte, unmistakable, harbingers of warmer temps to come!  Wanna see?  Look!


Tiny crocuses


Delicate rosemary blossoms


Sweet little grape hyacinths


Daffodils, my favourite spring time flower


Lenten Rose looking lovely

Your Honour, I present Exhibits A thru E (above).

I see tiny crocuses poking their heads through by my front walk, the rosemary has delicate blossoms and the grape hyacinth are all starting to emerge.  The daffodils are further along than I had thought and the lenten roses are blooming all over the place.  Definite signs of spring and NOT another 6 weeks of winter.

BOOM!  Take THAT, Phil!

Clearly, you are mistaken.


And if it pleases the court, allow me to present data from NOAA (National Climactic Data Center) that proves Phil is nothing more than a cheap charlatan preying on the cold and prepetually chilled! Punxsutawney Phil Verses the US National Termperatre 1988-2014

You will also note that none of the other groundhogs around the country are any better than Phil at predicting when the winter will end.  I don’t mean to call anyone out but … Charlotte … I am looking at you.  (Yes. You, young lady)

As for me I’ll be putting more stock in to Mother Nature.  SHE sure knows when Spring is on it’s way.  We all just need to look for the signs.

Is your garden starting to show signs of spring?