One of the best ways to prevent winter heaving is to make sure plants are mulched well. This insulates the ground from wide fluctuations in temperature. Another important preventative is to provide good drainage. The more moisture that's retained in the ground, the more you'll experience heaving.
As we get teased by the warmer days of early spring - only to get chills from lingering cold days - we wander about in our gardens, looking for signs of life. We know they're there, hiding under the mulch and dead leaves, but we impatiently want to see them.
Faith wears thin right about now.
But look closely, and pay attention to the indirect signs that spring is happening right under our noses. Look even closer and it's unmistakable. One of those signs is heaving.
Unless you live in a climate where the ground goes through a freeze/thaw cycle, you likely don't experience this in your gardens. But to us northerners, it's all too familiar. And just what heaves? Plants, bulbs, plant markers, stepping stones.
As the ground freezes, it expands due to the moisture contained in it. (Think of what happens to a can of pop when you leave it in the freezer too long.) As spring begins to take hold, the frozen ground thaws a bit on warmer days, then refreezes on the colder ones. Plants such as Heucheras eventually end up with their crowns rising out of the ground.
When I was walking out through the gardens today, enjoying the 63°F temperature, I noticed some heaving had occurred. Iris rhizomes reminded me of crayfish tiptoeing through the mud.
It seems to me, that except for the root exposure, this could serve the irises quite well. Spring brings heavy rains and we know if irises are planted too deeply, they'll rot. However, for most plants and bulbs, heaving can mean death to the plant if the unprotected roots are continually exposed to the elements.
When you see a plant or bulb that's risen out of the ground, you can gently press it back into the soft ground. If the ground is still frozen, just mound some mulch around the roots until you are able to coax them back down.
I continued my walk and noticed the mums had new growth around the base of the old plants.
The daffodils (Narcissus hybrid) on the south side of the house are continuing to grow taller and now have flower buds!
'Sensation' Lilac (Syringa vulgaris) has swelling buds. The white Peolac has them, too.
I continued to search for signs of crocuses, but didn't see a single pointy leaf of them anywhere. However, one thing I did see - and yes, just one - was this:
A snowdrop! It almost looks as if it's in such a hurry to bloom that it can't wait to grow up a little bit more.
The summer snowflakes (Leucojum aestivum) are popping up, too...
With warm temperatures in the 60s expected for the next few days, I think we'll see a lot of changes in the gardens. Maybe the witch hazel will even open up and bloom!