Why You Need to Get Outside During the Next Thaw

– Posted in: FAQ

Have you, like us, had more snow this winter than in the last twenty years?

snowy front walk

The front walk in its winter finery.

Perhaps, like us, you are getting a thaw? The temperature is well above freezing during the day, with intermittent rain? You need to get out! Take a walk through your garden–wear rubber boots and carry an umbrella if you must–but get out!

We who live in cold climates must be zealous for our mental health as well as our physical health. You need to escape the confinement of four walls and breathe the fresh air and note the more moderate temperatures against your skin and reconnect with your garden. Yes, even if it’s buried under snow, you will remember and it will nurture something inside you that has been near dormant. And, if you are really lucky, perhaps you will see this

crocus tips

These crocus tips were visible in the lawn mid-January, during the last thaw.

or maybe this
bulb tips

Daffodils or snowdrops, I am not sure, seen during the mid-January thaw

You will probably also see this
dandelion half buried

This dandelion is more than a foot wide.

and maybe even this
weeds around rhodo

This rhodo must have gotten missed during fall clean-up

Yes, any weeds you missed during the last fall clean-up do not die. They go into suspended animation once the ground freezes and start growing again as soon as the first couple of inches thaw out. They do get a head start. But the earliest spring bulbs likewise start to grow before the earth is fully thawed.

Even if the snow doesn’t melt completely, revealing the first pioneers of spring, it is a good time to prune. Check your shrubs and trees for broken branches, and also prune for shape and size. Prune some forsythia or pussy willows to take inside and force.

Do something to take back your garden from winter. Do something that lets your body know, on a cellular level, that spring is coming.

About the Author

Kathy Purdy is a colchicum evangelist, converting unsuspecting gardeners into colchicophiles. She would be delighted to speak to your group about colchicums or other gardening topics. Kathy’s been writing since 4th grade, gardening since high school, and blogging since 2002.

In the end, this may be the most important thing about frost: Frost slows us down. In spring, it tempers our eagerness. In fall, it brings closure and rest. In our gotta-go world–where every nanosecond seems to count–slowness can be a great gift. So rather than see Jack Frost as an adversary, you could choose to greet him as a friend.

~Philip Harnden in A Gardener’s Guide to Frost: Outwit the Weather and Extend the Spring and Fall Seasons

Comments on this entry are closed.

Emily March 3, 2014, 11:07 pm

Kathy, you’ve been in my yard! We may have had our last snow blast (fingers crossed). So as soon as the rains stop, I’ll be outside staking the shrubs the snow forced sideways and beginning the never-ending weeding. And it will ALL feel so good!

Jean March 3, 2014, 10:45 am

With so many heavy snow events, we have layers of snow in various forms from fluffy to frozen, making any attempts to walk a bit treacherous. I recommend at least one ski pole as a steadier.

Kathy Purdy March 3, 2014, 10:06 pm

Yes, Jean, you may not be able to get out in the garden, but surely you have a path from the driveway to the house shoveled? And perhaps the road is clear as well? Just getting out in the sun or at least milder air of a thaw can lift your spirits. And you can often hear bird song–more birds than you’ve heard all winter–which is also encouraging.

jack February 24, 2014, 9:30 am

Great to find you this morning. Thaw – love the sound of that. Here on the shores of Lake Michigan with the ice flowing by, it is beautiful in the gardens, but “thaw” seems to be what I need at this time! JC

Teresa Marie February 23, 2014, 10:17 pm

I so agree that I need to get outside – even if it is cold. If there is a sunny day, I’ll be out there. Hope that a false spring doesn’t create problems in the garden.
Have a great day!
Teresa Marie

Frank February 22, 2014, 9:33 pm

I also made a trek outside and for a couple minutes even sat on a dry step in the sun. I could have done without the biting wind, but the sun felt great!
Doh I almost slapped my forehead after your pruning comments. I never remember to bring in forcing branches, and should have done it today….. must take your advice tomorrow (assuming the thaw lasts) 🙂

Joanne Toft February 22, 2014, 11:56 am

Here in the Midwest we are under 3 to 5 feet of snow. Spring feels a long ways off! I did head out to the back yard and sunk waist deep in snow drifts. I guess I will wait to check the back bushes. Waiting for spring here in Mpls,Mn.

Kathy Purdy February 22, 2014, 1:28 pm

Joanne, we had a foot and a half on the ground before the thaw started. The only place that’s melted all the way to grass is over the septic tank. I didn’t mean to imply that spring is here. I just meant grab whatever crumbs of spring you can before winter sets a new course on the table. And you might not be able to get to those shrubs, but maybe you can walk along the road, or just stand on the porch and catch some rays. The last part of winter is the hardest, so we have to work harder to take care of ourselves. Winter’s not over yet for me or you. We are expecting more snow tomorrow, as a matter of fact. But I am enjoying this thaw while it lasts.

Alana February 22, 2014, 8:31 am

Kathy, you bet I am going to get out just as soon as the last of the ice melts off the sidewalks here in the Johnson City area. The sun is shining and calling me, although my sinuses (a wisdom tooth extraction with a sinus hole resulting) crank and complain from the cold. At least it isn’t zero degree cold today-ugh! There is nothing like the call of the sun, flowing like liquid honey from the sky. Our food garden is miles away at Otsiningo Park but our backyard perennials are waiting for me to check them out.

commonweeder February 21, 2014, 1:52 pm

I have to snowshoe out to feed and water my 6 old chickens. It isn’t a long trudge, and feels very different with the damp 32 degree air that is gilding all the tree branches with silver ice. CAn you gild with silver? Anyway, very beautiful, but not great conditions for walking. Ice on the ground too.

Kathy Purdy February 21, 2014, 2:21 pm

Pat, if you didn’t have to go out and feed those chickens, I would give you a pass. Ice anywhere is a good reason to stay inside. It doesn’t count as a thaw unless things are melting, not icing up. I hope you get our temps in the 40s tomorrow.

Kathy Sturr of the Violet Fern February 21, 2014, 6:43 am

Ok, right after work I will GET OUT! Finally take out the compost. I may even walk to work if it’s not raining too hard. I will be setting up my new makeshift 3 tier seed station this weekend, too. Spring is here! Thank you for the push. If I see any crocus, daffodils or snowdrops I will be in heaven. I will cut some Forsythia, too. All very good and wise suggestions. Thank you.

Dee Sewell February 21, 2014, 4:08 am

Gorgeous post and applies equally to us here in Ireland where we seem to have had non stop rain for weeks! Loved your final paragraph 🙂

Renee February 20, 2014, 11:50 pm

I took your advice today — before I read this. ;-). The snow is still too deep here in coastal Connecticut for any shoots to be visible, but I waded into the slushy snow and cut lots of stems of my giant pussy willow to force. Temps hit the 50s today and the sun was lovely — it was possible to believe spring really will get here this year.