What is a “Growth Surge”?

  • Difficulty Rating: Beginner
What is a “Growth Surge”?

Many gardeners and gardening reference materials – from books to magazines to blogs – will refer to a point in time when gardens experience a “growth surge”.

While this term may seem obvious to those of us who have been gardening season after season and year and after year, those new to gardening may be stymied by this reference. Fortunately, it’s a fairly simple concept to grasp.

Just about every garden goes through a series of seasons. Even if you live in a zone where temperatures remain about the same year round and sunlight doesn’t change an awful lot from season to season, there’s still likely some amount of seasonal change that happens.

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In summer, plants grow steadily. They plug along at a rapid pace for most of the season. During this time, trees lengthen stems and fatten trunks. Edibles form flowers and fruits, roots and leaves that ripen for our tables. Perennials inch upward and outward, adding colorful foliage and fragrant flowers that brighten beds.

In fall, the pace of summer growth begins to taper off. Plants commence preparations for winter by slowing their rapid growth to match the decline in daylight. They may reduce flowering to focus on fully ripening fruits for harvest. And deciduous trees and shrubs draw and store nutrients from their leaves before releasing the fall foliage to carpet the ground beneath.

Come winter, it may appear that all growth has ceased. In reality, plants – even those hunkered invisibly below the soil line – should be alive and well. They are growing, but very slowly. During the very short, often very cold days of winter, it may appear that life in the garden has come to a screeching halt. But it hasn’t; it’s just waiting patiently for spring.

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Then in spring, the surge arrives!

In spring, the days become longer with every passing day. Air and soil temperatures begin to warm. And as that happens, the gardening “growth surge” season is upon us. This term refers to exactly what we experience in the garden – a rapid increase in growth in nearly every plant, every day from the beginning of spring until the start of summer. Once summer arrives, the upward curve of spring’s rapid growth surge plateaus. Then, slowly and inconspicuously, as plants recognize soon-to-arrive shorter days and cooler nights, summer’s growth plateau curves downward toward the slow, protective growth of fall and winter.

The spring growth surge is brief. Just before this rapid period of growth, it’s time to complete many seasonal gardening chores. Shearing hedges at this time ensures that rapid, softening growth will hide ugly chop marks. Cutting down evergreen groundcovers and ferns just ahead of the surge allows us to enjoy their evergreen nature always. Plus, we don’t need to nit-pick prune out their old growth from their tender new. Seeding, planting and thinning many edibles ahead of and during the surge is ideal too. Dividing and transplanting many perennials is perfect this time of year too.

So mark your gardening calendar to get catch the wave and ride the spring gardening surge this season!