Today is Saturday, March 6. Quick! Tell me in what season we are now. Astute thinkers might ask first, “Are you speaking of the northern hemisphere or southern hemisphere?” Ok. That does make a difference, but I’m in the northern hemisphere.
The discerning reader might note that although the vernal equinox won’t be here for a couple more weeks, we entered meteorological spring on March 1. It will last three months like the reckoning of all astronomical periods. Either way, the four standard seasons are three months long in a twelve-month year.
Not so along the South Coast of the United States, also known as the Third Coast. There are many things unique to our area, and our seasons are no exception. I first learned that we have six seasons from Bill Finch’s article on February 27, 2006. At that time, he was the Garden Writer of the Mobile Press-Register newspaper. He is an award-winning author, botanist, naturalist and has a rich resume of accomplishments. I’m sharing information from that article and from some of my own experiences.
Mr. Finch labeled our six (two-month-long) seasons as follows:
1.Spring (February 15 – April 15)
Nights are still chilly, but February days can start warming up into the 70s and even reach the 80s by April. We can’t let our guard down since the average last frost can come around March 5. We even had a freak snowfall in early March several years ago. Cool-season crops can bring a plentiful harvest, and typical summer vegetables should be sown and set out now. Flowers like camellias, azaleas, and bulbs are on display, as you see in the top photo and in the collage above.
2. American summer (April 15 – June 15)
This is typical of how most of mid-America experiences the classic summer months. Days are warm, and nights are pleasantly cool. It’s a mostly dry season. Our gardens are at their best, especially for tomato harvesting, and flowers are profuse.
3.Gulf summer (June 15 – August 15)
This is a rainy season with scattered showers several times a week. The ever-present humidity drapes over the landscape like a wet blanket. Daily high and low temperatures differ very little. It’s hot. Every day. Every night. We thank the Lord for air conditioning. Bill Finch says, “Mid-American vegetables and flowers can’t take it, but vegetables and flowers from the humid tropics thrive.”
4.Hurricane summer (August 15 – October 15)
The name says it all. This is the peak season for tropical storms and hurricanes. We alternate between dry spells and torrential rains. The heat and humidity are still oppressive at first, but evenings begin to cool down, and October can be glorious. I think it’s the most boring time in the garden, but there’s still work to be done.
5.Fall (October 15 – December 15)
Fall is our driest season, but relief from the heat of our three summers is always welcome. After a tropical season slow-down, gardens can experience a renewal of production if you’ve planned well for it. This second-season for tomatoes may be better than in our American Summer. The first frost can arrive in late November or early December, however, we often have to use the air conditioner for Christmas.
6.Winter (December 15 – February 15)
Yes, it can get cold here, but nothing to compare with even North Alabama, Tennessee and the Carolinas. We have some nights that dip below freezing, but the days thaw out the water in the dog’s bowl. We only have three or four cold days in a row and then a return to seasonal (for us) temperatures. The ground never freezes hard. We’re lucky to see a few snow flurries, and we long for a good inch or two of snow every five or six years. Cold-hardy vegetables overwinter in the garden nicely. I enjoy my fresh salads from the backyard.
Camellias, pansies, snapdragons, and sweet alyssum are the mainstays for seasonal color. Weeds and wildflowers continue to thrive, so if you’re looking for something green among the brown lawns and flower beds, they’re easy to find.
Bill Finch did a wonderful job educating his readers on how to make the most of six months of summer along the Gulf Coast. His articles informed us about the best plants for our area and gardening tips for our particular circumstances in all six seasons of the year. I certainly learned a lot from him.
The “six” this week has to refer to the six seasons, not the six photos. I used twice that many.
Y’all have a blessed week. Spring is here, and we give thanks.