That old saying may work most of the time, but this year, with its ups and downs, all bets are off. I’ve seen robins in pairs, and Canada geese too, and then back to flocks and now in pairs again. They’re as confused as we are!
But there are all kinds of signs. Years ago I planted potatoes at the Nature Center using the signs of the moon: “Plant root crops in the dark of the moon, above ground vegetables in the light of the moon.” We planted equal size beds under the “right” and the “wrong” signs. For two years when we dug the potatoes those planted in the dark of the moon out-produced the others by 25% or more.
During that same demonstration we planted corn using the “scientific” criteria and using the “natural” signs. Old timers say to plant when the white oak leaves are the size of a mouse’s ear while the scientific measure is to plant when the soil temperature is 50 degrees, one inch below the surface at 7 AM. Best I could tell, these two events occurred about the same time.
Another sign that does seem to work is to have pre-emergent crabgrass preventer spread on your turf by the time dogwoods bloom. Or “put it out when the Forsythia blooms”. But, like birds, plants can get confused too. Winter Jasmine, Jasmine nudiflorum, normally blooms in January hereabouts, but I’ve seen it in full bloom just this week.
So, fellow gardeners, my message is to keep good records or a diary. Make up your own signs that match your garden.
And, I’d rather be a little late than try to rush things and get caught in a late cold snap.