If you’ve ever wondered what Punxsutawney Phil and El Nino have in common, it’s that their actions can predict when spring comes and how quickly we can get in our gardens.
On Groundhog Day, the groundhog popped out and did not see his shadow, predicting an early spring.
However, the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration’s predictions of a stronger El Nino into spring could mean we’re in for a wild ride in getting there.
El Nino has a 90 percent chance of lasting through winter and an 80 percent chance of lasting into spring, according to the NOAA.
HERE’S WHAT the NOAA PREDICTS ABOUT EL NINO:
- Wetter: Southern U.S. from California to the Carolinas then up parts of the East Coast
- Drier: Parts of the Ohio Valley, Great Lakes, northwestern Rockies
- Cooler: Desert Southwest, Southern Plains, northern Gulf Coast
- Warmer: Northern states from the Pacific Northwest to the Northern Plains, Great Lakes and Northeast
What that means for gardeners in any of the northern tier of states from Washington to Maine is warmer than average temperatures and dry conditions. It could mean a longer gardening season and getting outside and prepping your garden beds earlier.
You may be able to sow your cool-season annuals outdoors earlier. Your early spring blooms such as crocus, tulips, daffodils and forsythia may blossom sooner. Peonies and azaleas may give you an earlier show, too.
For gardeners living in the Southern U.S., from California to the Carolinas, that could mean a soggy spring with cooler temperatures.
Generally, that delay means it could take longer for you to get your hands in the dirt outside.
You could be planting later in spring and you’ll need to keep plants covered if temperatures dip below freezing.
In addition, you’ll want to keep your sensitive seedlings, such as the above tomatoes, protected, which may mean keeping them indoors longer.
If that’s the case, just enjoy your showers of bulbs and other blooms from inside your home while you wait out the wet weather.
You can also sow your seeds indoors and keep them there longer. If you don’t mind the chill, you could get a rain garden going with a rain chain and capture water with a rain barrel to save it for the heat of summer.
No matter where you live, El Nino isn’t the sole driver of weather. Be mindful and cover sensitive blooms and plants accordingly.
Also, if you live in states affected by drought, El Nino may not be a salve. Heavy rains can happen with or without El Nino. Or they may not happen at all. Protect your garden all year round and help your landscape fight drought. You can also plant drought-resistant flowers.