The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Spring indicator plants


My mom sent me an email that tickled my fancy a week or two ago:

I may get that thermometer today, mostly because I want to compare soil temperature with the growth of my "indicator" dandelions.  I actually welcome back dandelions as if they are relatives returning!  I have a special one just under the rock I step on to go down into the backyard.  It always comes back--I want it there, to light way down in dusky times.  I cherish the dandelions as my first fresh Spring greens--before asparagus, and wilder--bitterer--than wintered over kale and other greens like Swiss Chard.

A host of golden daffodilsShe got interested in the idea of dandelions as an indicator of the progression of spring, and stumbled across a Rodale pamphlet with a chapter on "Using phenology to make planting decisions".  The text suggested paying attention to honeysuckle and lilacs "because of their wide adaptability to different geographical areas, and their reliability in making consistent responses to varying weather conditons". 

By noticing when the indicator plants' leaves and flowers emerge, you can get an idea about when to plant certain crops.  For example, the Rodale pamphlet recommended planting cool season crops (like peas) when lilac shows its first leaves and waiting to plant warm season crops (like tomatoes) until the lilacs are in bloom.  Of course, oak leaves are another classic indicator plant.

I loved Mom's idea of testing indicator plants against soil temperature.  What's your most dependable indicator plant?  Have you noticed whether it responds to day length, air temperature, or soil temperature?

Our chicken waterer keeps chicks healthy from day 1 with clean water (and a fun toy.)

Anna Hess's books
Want more in-depth information? Browse through our books.

Or explore more posts by date or by subject.

About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

Want to be notified when new comments are posted on this page? Click on the RSS button after you add a comment to subscribe to the comment feed, or simply check the box beside "email replies to me" while writing your comment.

I haven't been gardening long enough to have taken notice of indicator plants but I love the concept and I'm going to start paying attention. Your mom is very poetic. Thanks for providing a new way to see a dandelion, both in word and picture.
Comment by Lisa Sat Mar 10 20:17:18 2012
Lisa --- I thought Mom's words were too poetic not to share too. I love the way dandelions are so much more than a ubiquitous weed.
Comment by anna Sun Mar 11 13:52:32 2012

profile counter myspace

Powered by Branchable Wiki Hosting.

Required disclosures:

As an Amazon Associate, I earn a few pennies every time you buy something using one of my affiliate links. Don't worry, though --- I only recommend products I thoroughly stand behind!

Also, this site has Google ads on it. Third party vendors, including Google, use cookies to serve ads based on a user's prior visits to a website. Google's use of advertising cookies enables it and its partners to serve ads to users based on their visit to various sites. You can opt out of personalized advertising by visiting this site.