Over the weekend, Blackberry Winter has krept up on us here in Georgia. Blackberry winter marks the last major cold snap before the warm weather of Spring finally engulfs us for the remainder of the season until the first cold snap of Autumn emerges in mid-October to mark the changing of the leaves.
Blackberry winter is well known to the older generation and those that remember Southern folklore, usually associated with gardening. It arrives around the third week of April, which coincides with the average last frost date around Georgia.
Gardeners who take heed to nature's signs recognize Blackberry Winter as the last freezing temps.before the Blackberry buds blossom out into the snowy white blooms that mark the time for safe summer harvest plants, such as tomato, cucumber, zucchini and crook-neck squash, radish and eggplants to name a few.
While lettuces, turnips and collards are best grown in early Spring, while the weather is still cool (hot weather turns lettuce bitter), summer harvest plants need to have the last chance of frost gone before safe planting is begun.
I'm not sure how this particular piece of folklore began, but my guess is hat since Blackberries are native plants, and many wild animals feed on them, nature takes care of it's own. Nature wouldn't allow the tender blooms of the Blackberries freeze and die, leaving our woodland creatures without for the year. I figure the people of our past made observations of this and learned what nature had to teach.
My granddaddy was born in 1896, and began gardening around the turn of the 20th century, under the watchful eyes of his father. Of course, meteorologists weren't around to advise on planting time, so people had to depend on their senses to guide them. As a boy, I spent much of my youth down on my granddaddy's farm, learning how to turn a field, build pole-bean tee-pees, churn butter, and how to observe nature and learn from it's lessons. My granddaddy died in 1994, at the age of 98. I miss him greatly, but the memory and lessons he passed down to me are mine forever. The great thing about them, however, is that the more I share them with others, the fresher in my memory they remain.
While some folklore holds true, and other may be more myth than reality, I've found that watching for the Blackberries to bloom has always been a great guide for me to realize that Winter is finally behind me, and warm weather is here to stay.
I'm not sure whether this particular piece of folklore is shared around the country, but I am curious of the folklore handed down from generation to generation in other parts of the country... the "sugar snow" of Wisconsin, and other lessons that may have been taken from nature's whisperings.
Do you have a piece of knowledge/wisdom handed down from generations gone by in your part of the world?