Don’t plant until the snow is off Galena

Lorraine Dick
By Lorraine Dick
April 13th, 2013

“Don’t plant until the snow is off Galena” is what I was told when I moved to Grand Forks. This is considered local folklore but can also be considered phenology. Phenology is “the science of appearances”. It is the study of how changes in one species can be used to predict changes in another.

Usual predictors are lilacs, forsythia, dogwood, daylilies, shadbush or serviceberry bush, when the female red winged blackbird returns, the first lady bugs appear, and chickadees start building their nests. These predictors are pretty much consistent across all planting zones with, of course, the exception of snow on Galena.

What is common among all the plant predictors are they are all perennials (a plant lives for more than two years without being reseeded or replanted). What modern science has rediscovered is, that regardless of winter or spring weather, plants will bloom and insects will emerge in essentially the same order year after year. For this reason, the event sequence of plants can be used as a natural calendar to cue into other gardening practices that are dependent on a particular stage.

The following table includes some of the more common cues for sowing specific plants:

When the…


·         forsythia blooms

·         apple blossoms bud

·         lilac leaves are the size of a mouse’s ear (is in first leaf)

·         chickadees build their nests

·         red winged blackbird females return

·         daffodils begin to bloom

·         dandelions are blooming

·         dogwood is in full bloom

·         shadbush or serviceberry flowers

·         peas

·         lettuce

·         carrots

·         beets

·         spinach

·         cole (cauliflower,   cabbage, broccoli, crops)

·         potatoes

·         beets, lettuce, spinach and carrots

·         fall cabbage and broccoli seeds.


·         dogwood reaches peak   bloom

·         lily-of-the-valley blooms

·         early corn


·         lilac is in full bloom/ lilac flowers have faded

·         apple trees shed their petals

·         elm leaves are the size of a squirrel’s ear

·         late corn

·         beans

·         squash

·         cucumbers

·         beans and squash


What are your common cues for planting? The Farmer’s Almanac, the snow on Galena, your neighbours or the calendar?

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