As spring begins to unfold in our Oregon neck of the woods, I feel a little like I’m Charlie Brown playing baseball with Lucy again. Every year – whether I recall my habitual error or not – I make the same misjudgment about the Oregon spring! I’m doing it right now – I’m sitting here telling the world how dumb I am when it comes to knowing when it will finally be spring-like here, and yet part of me is shouting, “YEAH, BUT THIS YEAR IT’LL BE DIFFERENT!”
Nope – it’s never different. Spring in Oregon is a loooooooog, sloooooooow, process. I’ve proven this in any number of ways, aside from simply observing the conditions – and one of the most telling is the measurement of the ground temperature. No matter what’s happening each daytime, if the temperature at night remains cold, as is common in an Oregon spring, the temperature of the ground will remain under 60 degrees – and the tomatoes will simply refuse to grow. Want to take a wild guess as to the average date each year when the ground temperature reaches 60 degrees? Would you believe usually sometime after the first week in June?
I grew up in the Northeast, and I swear I remember how spring would arrive there – unless my memory is just completely messed up, my recollection is that one day it’d be cold and nasty, and the next day, spring would be there! No long, slow emergence, just BAM! Spring! But – I’ll give ground here – this could be the warped, unconscious mind of youth at work here too. Too long ago for me to worry over – But … it’s there just the same.
I think another problem for us here in Oregon is that winter is not really cold and nasty – it’s more like two weeks of rain, clouds, and moderate temperatures, followed by 3 days of sun and warm temps, followed by two weeks of gloomy clouds, threats of rain, and moderate temps again. This is how winter goes. It’s not like spring arrives to break the long, cold winter spell – it’s more like the temperature rises an average of a degree or so each week, and otherwise, the weather doesn’t change until sometime in mid June, when the rain just stops for the next four months.
Actually, this roll-out of spring in Oregon doesn’t really bother me – maybe in an amusing sort of way – but not really much else. But what does bother me is that it’s not very good for many of our common fruiting trees. First off, most fruit trees need a goodly amount of cold (temps under 40 degrees) in order to set fruit come spring (whenever that is) – and I’m sure that one reason why some of my trees don’t fruit well is that they simply don’t get the needed cold. But even worse is the periodic warm spells during our winters – this can prove deadly for the fruit trees!
I’m sure that somewhere inside every fruit tree is a brain of sorts that tells it when it’s time to start developing buds and leaves – and in my general ignorance, I’ll assume that periods of warm weather may well trigger this reaction. Seems logical – right? Well, if that’s true, then this year would have been trouble for those trees, because we had at least 3, maybe 4 distinct periods of a week or more of warm, sunny weather in the middle of our supposed winter. How’s a tree to know?
As I walked around the yard yesterday, I noticed some encouraging things – buds that appeared beautiful, plump, and ready to burst forth. But I also noticed some strange behavior too. Cherries are supposed to be early, and I didn’t see much evidence of bud development yesterday. Not much from apples either, but they’re late bloomers. The pears where a surprise – they seemed much ahead of last year, and interestingly, the pears that bloomed first last year are not showing much of anything yet this year. Strange.
I guess time will tell – I think I’ll let nature and the weather work out their differences – and I’ll try to just be a good observer.