The ice the cold the snow winter is here hooray ! Well not really. I know there are some who live for winter but I am certainly not one of them. Give me 70 degrees and sunny and I am content. Content or not winter is a fact of life and it is really a very important time in the garden. Many things are going on while the snow is covering the ground that we do not see but is vital to plants survival.
One of the processes that occurs in winter is vernalization. This is when plants need a period of cold in order to bloom or in some cases break dormancy. Some people mistake this for forcing a plant but there is a difference. Many plants such as fruit trees and some perennials have a requirement of cold before they will bloom.
This is what is known as chill hours. This is a biological function that is meant to be sure plants do not break dormancy and start to grow until winter is over. Until sufficient number of hours pass at a certain temperature these plants are programed not to break dormancy and flower.
There are many herbaceous perennials that require vernalization to bloom or some require it in order to produce a greater number of blooms. This is why flowers bloom in spring on some plants. The use of cold is also required by some seeds in order to germinate. When seeds require a period of cold before they will germinate it is known as stratification . This is also a form of vernalization but is is a requirement for the seeds to actually grow and without the cold the seeds would just sit and eventually rot.
While the winter does put a damper on gardening activities it is also an important time. Without the rest period and a chill it would be impossible for us to enjoy many fruits and nuts which we now enjoy, apples being just one. No apple pie, no apple butter, no apple turnovers that would certainly be sadder than having to put up with a couple of months of cold weather.
Again the cold rest period is also when the leaf growth on lawns stop but the root system is still growing and forming foods to bolster the spurt of new growth in the spring. With out this rest the lawns would not survive and we would be having to find an alternative place to sit and enjoy a fine summer day.
So as the cold winter winds blow and the snow piles up outside the window, inch a bit closer ti the fireplace and dream about the upcoming spring and the hosts of flowers and plants that will be burst forth. This is a needed respite for them and can be a good break for you. Think a head a month or two at all the frenzy of spring in the garden and you may even start to like that cold snowy weather just a little bit.