I saw a beautiful rainbow today. A neighbor and friend stopped by while I was hedging my Amur Maples and said "drive down to the end of the street and look!"
It was a nice summer rain. Made me want to expand on Truckee's Gardening and Growing Seasons.
At the beginning of the year it is winter. January gardening entails paperwhite bulbs and amarylis bulbs and some houseplants. I do check-out the plants on exposed rocky ridges while skiing and marvel at the toughness of Heuchera, Artemisia and Eriogonum.
February keeps us busy trying to force bulbs for Valentines Day. On our south facing rock wall, we have had Crocus bloom by late February and be covered with snow and be still blooming when it melts out a couple of weeks later. After several months of a warm blanket of snow, the earth warms-up and thaws out the frozen soils that we see in late fall. I'll often pick-up some hardy bedding plants off the hill somewhere and plant up a flower box to show how tough pants are. Dianthus, Calendula, Viola, Stock, Pansy, and English Primula can all take temperatures in the low teens.
The first Tuesday in March is THE day to start tomato and pepper seeds indoor so they'll be big enough to put out in mid-May. Lots of Crocus and rock-garden Narcissus bloom in sunny spots in March. In low snow years, I have planted many trees, shrubs and perennials in March to take advantage of pre-leaf root growth. Pulsatilla Anemone usually blooms late in the month. The first time YOU see bare Earth in spring is a great time to spread wildflower seeds.
April is frequently a gardening month. April 1st is THE day to plant sweet pea seeds outdoor. I usually try to plant spinach, chard, lettuce, carrot, beet (and more) seeds my mid April (This year some just rotted but warm weather usually arrives before mid June). I also plant starts of spinach, lettuce, chard, onion, hardy herbs and hardy edible flowers like Dianthus, Calendula and Viola.
May-June-July are the basic spring - early summer gardening months, everything comes into bloom, the days are long and we get frost here and there. More plants bloom this time of year so they;ll have time to make seeds and store energy later on. Our "Average Last Date of Frost", according to NOAA is July 15. Our "Average First Date of Frost" is August 15. So August 1 is dead-center, the middle of our season.
August - September - October are a mirror of July-June-May and are the bulk of the late summer - fall gardening season. The days are shorter but the soil is much warmer than in spring. It is of course the best time to get out and enjoy the mountains and lakes, to collect seed and to plant for next spring. We are ALWAYS planting for "next year". Plants only look their best when they've had a winter in the ground and can rise with our natural spring weather. When we plant in the fall we don't have to wait as long for "next year" as we do when we plant in May.
November often has beautiful days (who am I kidding? These are the Sierras; we get beautiful sunny days all winter as well). Autumn Crocus and Autumn Monkshood are often still blooming as are a few Asters and the tallest Rudbeckias. Planting bulbs before the soil begins to form a frozen crust is a good idea. As the sun drops lower in the sky and the days get really short, shady spots are the first to stay frozen. Ecology books speak of the "Autumnal Thermal Overturn" when the air temperature stays colder than the soil temperature. Though it can be hard on some plants, we hope for a good deep frost before the snows come because it is particularly hard on the rodents. "If ice skating is good the voles won't be as bad next spring". Deep in the soil the earth is consistantly warm ad once the blanket of insulating snow covers it, the soil begins to thaw. Wildflower seeding on top of the first 3" of snow is a technique that has worked very well for many.
Remember that most deciduous trees and shrubs put on the majority of their annual root system expansion in fall, AFTER they lose their leaves. The secondary root push occurs in early spring, before the leaves emerge and before most folks get out and plant.
So - were just into the second half of the gardening season with a few months left until winter.