Post-Groundhog Day, it’s time to start gardening


Groundhog Club co-handler Ron Ploucha holds Punxsutawney Phil, after the club said Phil did not see his shadow and there will be an early spring during the Groundhog Day ceremony on Feb. 2 in Punxsutawney, Pa. (Keith Srakocic/AP) (Keith Srakocic/AP)
February 4, 2013

Punxsutawney Phil may have predicted an early Spring, but it’s still cold for now. But the frigid weather shouldn’t stop you from your gardening, Adrian Higgins reports:

Some winter tasks won’t wait — pruning sleeping trees, cutting back rosebushes and cleaning up ornamental grasses, for example. But many other jobs that are not so obviously pressing are still well suited to this time, even if the idea of gardening regularly in the winter is alien to many people.

Whether that pitiable rodent sees its shadow or not on Saturday, Groundhog Day, is beside the point.

This is my own temperature-activity table for winter gardening. In the teens: Don’t get out of bed. Twenties: Fuss with seeds indoors. Thirties: Bundle up and do what you must in the garden. Forties: Bundle up and go get ’em. Fifties: You’re in clover; make a day of it.

The watershed is 40 degrees. Below that and it’s for die-hards, but above that, especially if you are generating heat through work, it’s agreeable. Rain and a stiff wind will drive you indoors, but a light drizzle (I find) merely adds to the ambiance.

There have been 18 Saturdays or Sundays since the beginning of December. Only two (last weekend) had high temperatures below that 40-degree line. Ten have been above 50 degrees. The mercury hit 62 degrees the Sunday before last.

If January is any indication of weather to come, the groundhog’s prediction may be right. The Capital Weather Gang’s Matt Rogers writes:

What a difference a year doesn’t make, as January 2013 looked a whole lot like January 2012 for the final numbers. It was only 0.4 degrees Fahrenheit colder and .34 inches wetter than last year.

Despite the closeness in final result, there was certainly more volatility in 2013 than 2012. I think we can all agree that the wild swings these past few weeks were quite notable.

January 2013 had both the warmest and coldest extremes compared to last year. We also had three days completely below the freezing mark, with none last year. However, from a snow standpoint, these two January months were virtually twins.

Looking at the rankings for the 2000s shows January 2013 to be the fifth warmest and fifth wettest of the batch. We’ve had lots of fairly dry January months during this new century, with only three of the 14 going over three inches (liquid equivalent).

The Groundhog’s accuracy is a subject of debate, however, according to Capital Weather Gang’s Jason Samenow:

The official Web site of Punxsutawney Phil claims he has “of course” issued a correct forecast 100 percent of the time. But NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center says Phil’s forecasts have shown “no predictive skill” in recent years. AccuWeather finds that the furry rodent has an 80 percent accuracy rate.

Phil’s 2012 prediction was far from spot-on: He called for six more weeks of winter, and the lower 48 states experienced a mild February (17th warmest on record) and its warmest March on record.

Infographic: All There Is to Know About Phil (AccuWeather)

Looking ahead to the next six weeks, AccuWeather isn’t quite in concert with Phil’s spring-like forecast, especially for the Northeast and Northwest U.S. where it expects a chilly, stormy pattern.

“A couple of winter storms may impact the Northeast during February and March,” AccuWeather writes in its spring outlook. “The potential exists for snow along the I-95 corridor from Washington, D.C., to New York City and Boston.”

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