Gardens have Circadian Rhythms, Too!

Our bodies are controlled by circadian rhythms that tell us when we should be sleeping and when we should be awake. The same is true of every animal. Diurnal creatures are awake during the day and nocturnal animals wake for the night. Sure, we can get out of sync but our natural rhythms dictate when we should be active and when we should be resting. And it’s not just animals that follow this natural cycle. Gardens have circadian rhythms too!



This year I missed the boat on planting my early spring crops like broccoli and cabbage. I do have some coming up but, for the full crop I want I’ll have to do a mid-summer planting to get a fall harvest. That’s good news in a way as cabbage is always sweeter after having gone through a frost. Yet it’s not so much the temperature that these crops are reacting to but the longer days. Just as our bodies set our internal clocks by sunlight, many crops do the same.

Plants keep track of the seasons to ensure the survival of their species. They are sensitive to day length which is called photoperiodism. Potatoes use this to determine when to produce storage tubers and other plants use it to time when they fruit or bolt. We would know spring from summer and summer from winter without clocks or calendars by daylight and plants are the same.

“The {circadian} clock has a light-sensitive window at the end of the day that acts as a gating mechanism” according to Takato Imaizumi, a University of Washington biologist. Sunlight is still crucial to our biological sense of time but that gating mechanism communicates to plants and animals the changing of seasons. Latitude also plays a role in the success of your garden.

Long-day plants like tomatoes and peppers want to flower and fruit as we move toward the longest days each year. Plants such as cabbage and turnips want to flower in early spring or in the fall. Some plants require a prolonged period of cold, known as Vernalization. Carrots, parsnips, and beets won’t go to seed in their first summer with this cold.

When trying to create a garden be sure to purchase plants or seeds that are suited to your locale. If you’re in Florida, it’s not use trying to grow crops intended for cold weather areas. You can also adjust when you plant various crops so that you can mimic the circadian rhythm of your garden.

UPDATE – Potatoes & Carrots in Pots

I promised an update on the potatoes and carrots I planted in pots and I’m delighted to say that the red potatoes and both kinds of carrots are coming up. The Yukon Gold potatoes haven’t shown any green yet but I’m still hopeful.

These are the red potatoes. I did plant quite a few for the size of the pot but, with luck, they’ll produce the way I want. If things get too crowded I’ll just thin them a bit.



Here are the carrots. I made a rookie mistake in that I didn’t note which pot is the baby carrots and which I planted the full size variety. This may mean I’m going to be pulling a lot of carrots when they’re still small. Lesson learned for next year!

 carrot-close-upA close up of one of the carrots just starting to grow. I’m delighted!


 There are several carrots here and many more in the pot. I’m going to have to thin them a bit. I can live with having more than I expected!

Garden Season is On!

It was an absolutely gorgeous day yesterday. There was a slight breeze but the temperature was in the 70’s and it was very sunny. It was the perfect day to really get to work on my neglected garden. I’d cleaned up a bit in fall and we’d finished clearing out earlier the spring but I was late on getting some early crops in the ground. But with the weather today it was definite. Garden season is on!



My son came over to till the soil, as he does every spring. It took him two days but while he was finishing the last little bit I was able to get to the south side of the garden to start planting. This year I decided I was going to skip a lot of the crop markers; a move I may regret later. I do have the whole garden layout on an Excel sheet so I shouldn’t “lose” crops entirely.

Before my son even made it to my house I’d planted Baby Finger carrots and Chantaney Red carrots. While he was touching up a couple of areas he wasn’t pleased with I got seeds in for my red and green cabbage. I was delighted to find a nice patch of clover to transplant to the middle of the cabbage bed. Clover is great for keeping cabbage safe from various insects. I’ll also plant Calendula when I’m sure that there’s no risk of frost.

After the cabbage went in I laid out the area I’ll put onion sets in. The onions should really already be in the ground but I’ve been, as I mentioned, behind on planting. I also got the lettuce bed ready. Tomorrow, Monday, is the day for arugula, spinach, red and green romaine, and crisp head lettuce to be sown. I’ll also toss some borage seeds near the strawberries and behind where the tomatoes will be planted.

English peas were next on my list of seeds to get in the ground. I only planted one 8 foot row for now but a second and possibly a third row will go in as soon as the first row shows their heads. Pole beans will have to wait until there’s no danger of a late frost. I’m going to add sugar snap peas on Monday, as well. We like them and our grand kids love them.

I’ll also plant zucchini, pickling cucumbers, watermelon, cantaloupe, tomatoes, bell peppers, banana peppers, and jalapeño peppers. If I can find a spot I want to plant yellow squash and eggplant again, too. And, of course, the herbs will be companion planted with the crops they most benefit.

This was a long, physically difficult day and I couldn’t be happier! I’m using my walker instead of just a cane this evening and showering is going to be a challenge yet I’ll go to sleep with a big smile on my face. Gardening has begun and life is great!

What are you planting this season?

Monday update:

Well, the weather is supposed to throw a huge monkey wrench into my plans for today. The forecast went from possible rain to “Holy cow, the storms are going to be EPIC!” My poor little seeds that are sown at only 1/4 inch may be in real trouble. The peas should be okay. They’re at a depth of 2 inches. If they wash away I’ll have bigger problems than the garden. I don’t have a clue how to build an ark!