If you are new to gardening then you will have heard terms like late spring or early spring banded about a lot, I know I use them myself a lot in my writing, but what exactly do they mean?
There are no official definitions of the seasons and we just use the start and end of months to define them, this may not always correlate with what the weather is like each year.
So using terms like early spring or late summer just gives you a bit more wiggle room than saying spring, saying you plant something in spring doesn’t mean you have to wait until the first day of march before you plant, and I think that saying early spring makes it easier to convey the idea of planting when the seasons begin to change and winter is turning into spring.
Let me expand on this a little below. The traditional monthly seasons work as follows in the UK Spring (March, April, May) Summer (June, July, August) Autumn (September, October, November) Winter (December, January, February).
Some people think it is better to use the equinox and solstice as the definitions but this gets a bit complicated as they change each year and occur on random dates, the summer solstice was on 21st June in 2021, so does summer not start until 3 weeks into June?
I think the early/late seasonal terms just allow us to blur the lines a bit while still being more precise than just saying plant in the summer.
Early spring is when the seasons are just beginning to shift after a long winter, the first of the spring flowers will be starting to poke their heads above the ground such as snowdrops and crocuses.
This normally comes in around the beginning of march, and this is what I think of as early spring. But the weather can change year to year so it is always better to think in terms of the weather rather than what a calendar says.
When these changes occur will also change depending on whereabouts you are in the country, the further north the later it will happen and also the higher you are in terms of elevation the later it will happen.
Late spring in monthly terms would be May, the weather to look for when thinking of gardening terms would be the days getting warmer and longer but still really cold nights with even a slight chance of frost in some areas.
Early summer would be June. The days should be warmer and also the nighttime temperatures will be picking up. We will be approving the summer solstice so the days will be getting really long. The risk of frost will have passed and tender plants can be planted out without risk.
Late Summer will be August. The days will be hot with much warmer nighttime temperatures. Days will just be starting to get shorter again as we head into autumn.
Around September is early autumn. We are now heading out of the peak growing season and conditions are starting to deteriorate rather than improve. Depending on the weather that year temperatures will be cooling during the day although not always.
Around November is late autumn and at this time of year, a gardener’s focus tends to shift towards next year.
We now start to think about planting for next spring and start to bring in tender plants for protection.
December is early winter and is when the gardening season really slows down and maintenance is the main job around.
February is late winter, all gardener’s attention will be turned to the upcoming spring. You will probably have seedlings on your windowsills and will be eagerly awaiting the return of the growing season.