‘Ouch’ is a common part of my speech at this time of the year (mid-September) as acorns start raining down with regularity, during the early phase of Fall. As I rubbed my forehead this morning, it struck me that this is just one of many repeating seasonal signs and dates that could be included in an expats almanac for New Jersey.
So today I promptly drew up a calendar of typical weather and other natural events using my reliable memory (hah) and input from some online NJ planting experts. OK, it’s not exactly scientific and I’m no Nostradamus (probably a good thing really), so don’t expect accurate forecasts of weather or anything ridiculous like that.
But during the annual natural cycle of New Jersey it is nice to know what to expect, and even helpful when you are planning things for the garden.
An Expats Almanac for New Jersey
Weather: The weather starts to cool down, although it can still be 30C or slightly above early in the month. By mid-month, the mornings are cooler, and the maximum at night is dropping. Breezes have a cool edge when the wind blows, and the air starts to be less humid. Average temperature highs are 21C and lows are 12C. A lovely month of the year.
Gardening and Plants: This is the month that Mums start to appear for sale. These are a popular chrysanthemum range of plants that grace many front steps and porches, together with pumpkins during the cooler months before winter. As mums come in multiple vivid colors, a lot of people also plant them to make beautiful contrasting gardens. You can plant fall crops such as kale, broccoli, cabbages, kohlrabi, radishes, and collard greens. Apple picking is a popular family activity that peaks during September-October, although peach season is also on now.
Foliage: The vivid greenery of early summer has faded to a more olive green and the first signs of fall foliage change start to show. Acorns rule the day though and start dropping almost any place with trees. Even Scrat, the unlucky squirrel from Ice Age, would be able to catch and keep a few acorns, as there is plenty to spare. It’s almost worth wearing a helmet some days for protection…..
Weather: The weather is at its mildest and most pleasant during the year. Yes it can be cool but not freezing, and it is warm enough still to go outdoors for hiking and enjoying the foliage color changes. You will need to start dressing in longer sleeved shirts and swap shorts for jeans, as the weather cools further. Temperatures during the day can be anywhere between ~10-20C but closer to the lower end, as the month goes by. Average temperature lows reach 6C.
Gardening and Plants: Mums are still available and will still maintain their vivid flowers during the month, as there is still enough sun at least for this. Pumpkins are everywhere now, including Jack-o-Lanterns carved for Halloween, at the end of the month. Don’t carve your pumpkin too early, as they will deteriorate if the weather is warm, and squirrels will take a few bites as well. You can visit a pumpkin farm and pick your own. Plant garlic and rhubarb before fall gets on too much. Harvest any mature fall crops such as Beets, beans, peas, carrots, cabbage and Swiss chard. Apple and cranberry picking is on right now. Visit a Cranberry bog to see how it is done.
Foliage: this is the magic month, when the foliage colors look the most beautiful. One of the most amazing things is when the foliage change colors close together. This doesn’t always happen, as some trees with early fall foliage will die off and start dropping in many cases before some other leaves have even changed. Color changes are over within a4-6 weeks or so mainly, so make sure you get out and see the foliage in the best places this month.
Weather: OK, the weather starts to turn cold by this month, so you know, that next month will possibly bring snow, and it will be time to get out the heavier jackets, gloves and hats, in preparation for winter. Temperatures can still be pleasant but by Thanksgiving, they have often dropped into single figures 0-10C. Average temperature maximums reach 13C and lows reach 0C or slightly below.
Gardening and Plants: Not too many things are available to plant right now, although there are some kale plants that are hardy that can be used to add accents and color. Mostly people will be preparing for winter by ensuring the leaves are all raked up before the snow comes. This is the prime ‘pick-up leaves’ month, so get a stock of brown paper bags for green waste, and make sure you have a rake.
Foliage: As the colors wane, and the leaves turn brown, they will start to drop off. Just as the colors don’t all turn at once, the leaves from various trees may have different drop times too. Most trees will be bare by end of the month. Buy plenty of Band-Aids for those blisters from raking.
Weather: Cold but not the coldest month. However, it is cold enough to snow, and it has happened before on many occasions. One always hopes for a white Christmas but I haven’t see one in 5 years here. A white Boxing Day yes… Even without the snow, you still need good quality thick jackets, gloves, scarfs, hats and often, long underwear, if you are walking around outside. Average temperatures range from 7C to lows of -3C.
Gardening and Plants: This the start of the ‘bare trees and garden’ look. Get used to it, as you have three more months to go, of looking at this. Any strong winds will drop dead branches onto your frozen lawn. Get rid of any remaining fallen leaves before it snows. Plant shops have nothing to sell except pine tree shrubs or indoor plants. The ground stays frozen during daytime too for longer periods.
Foliage: as above-there is none, except for pine trees. These lose a few needles but still look OK. With Christmas coming, there will be plenty for sale as live Christmas trees. With snow covering branches, and holiday decorations around, the bare trees are less noticeable. Freshly fallen snow makes the exteriors look magical and adds to the holidays ramp up.
Weather: OK, now it’s getting really cold. Minus temperatures are norm, and you don’t want to be outside for more than a few minutes without gloves or proper attire. Average temperatures can go as low as -15C, which is enough to freeze your pipes, even with heat on inside. Temperatures range from an average of 4C down to -5C. As the interiors of many places are heated up to stifling levels, it is nice to go outside for a few minutes to enjoy the fresh air. Make sure you wear layers so you can strip off for indoors and rug up for outside. We are in the downturn time of festivities and with outside weather so inhospitable, cabin fever descends on all by the end of this month.
Gardening and Plants: No need to worry as usually there is snow covering everything. Lawns are frozen, and lumpy to walk on, even when there is no snow.
Foliage: Now that the holidays have passed, the bare trees make your gardens look forlorn. Now you start to find this less attractive. Icicles hang off houses and trees. Don’t walk underneath these ice-daggers although they are wonderful to look at.
Weather: Still damn cold but the promise of the end of Winter is around the corner. Average temperatures range approximately from 6C down to-4C. People are counting down for March to get here. Skiing and snow days when kids can go sledding are the only bright spots in a continuing cold season. Cabin fever is hard to cope with at this stage.
Gardening and Plants: While you can’t plant anything you can daydream about what you could do with the garden if only winter would go already. Spend time planning your garden and getting materials ready for next month.
Foliage: Still none, and not for a while yet either, sorry to ruin your dreams.
Weather: Finally, there is some sign that Winter is going. Spring starts officially this month but depending on how tardy it wants to be, there may just be cold temperatures at this time. You can start to think about packing away your winter woolies but hold off just a few weeks more, as March can still be too cold. Wearing layers is best here, as the weather warms. Average temperatures range approximately from 10C down to -1C.
Gardening and Plants. As the snow melts this month (usually), you will start to see the early signs that Spring is going to come. Tiny shoots of crocuses start to pop up, even under the snow, and start to grow and flower, to everyone’s relief. The ground is still a little cold but tulip bulbs start to flower, running into next month. Plant your strawberries as soon as the ground thaws, and after St Patrick’s Day you can plant peas and radishes. Cabbages need to be planted by then as well, before it’s too warm.
Foliage: Sorry, no leaves yet. Try next month.
Weather: The weather starts to actually feel like Spring although there can be a chill in the air early on. Heavy jackets are gone but a light jacket is needed. The weather can be very variable as it tries to make up its mind whether to be hot or cold. Wearing layers is still good e.g. a hoodie with a short sleeved t-shirt etc. Heavy rains can occur, with slight street flooding. Average temperatures range from 17C down to a low of 6C.
Gardens and Plants: At last you can actually think about gardening or what to plant. Tulips and cherry blossoms are common, and many species of flowering plants decorate township gardens. By mid-April you have a pretty decent version of Spring happening (give or take a few weeks). There is a beautiful array of colors that lasts in its vivid intensity stage, only a few weeks. The commencement of this is in early April where cherry blossoms line the township streets, and decorate many parks. A truly beautiful time of year.
Foliage: Hooray! Tree branches and shrubs start to show shoots that uncurl pretty fast. Foliage varies in color, style, and shape. Reds match it with greens, and other hues, to make a colorful patchwork. The new leaves take a little while to fully fold out but the change is like magic. There is an obvious lift in spirits.
Weather: Still in the bliss of Spring with temperatures around 15-25C, and all-in-all, a very pleasant time of the year. Hay fever problems are rife in most places due to the enormous variety of trees. Although it rains frequently throughout the year, rain seems to be more common during spring. As the weather warms up, the air starts to become more humid. Summer is approaching, even though it feels like Spring just started. Average temperatures range from 22C down to a low of 10C.
Gardens and Plants: If you haven’t already pruned away the dead branches and/or leggy growth from early Spring, now is a time when people are definitely gardening a lot, as the prime growing season is in full swing. This is the strawberry harvesting season, and many gardeners enjoy different lettuces through spring. Plant bell peppers by mid-May to eat with other salad plants. Jersey tomato season is coming soon!
Foliage: Large amounts of pollen are now growing on many trees. The pollen starts to drop off the trees, and is so abundant that it carpets the ground, including the driveway and paths. It also makes a sticky awkward mess all over your car (if uncovered), that is not easy to remove.
Weather: Ahh, summer is here as measured by the end of Memorial Day weekend. The swimming pools are open, and it is time to get your pool membership renewed. Temperatures range from 25-35C, although much less commonly at the high end. Humidity though is pretty high and will stay that way till the end of summer. Watch out, as you can get sunburnt here, so sunscreens are needed during summer months. Average temperatures range from 17C down to a low of 6C.
Gardening and Plants: Plant nurseries now feature a big range of different flowers and shrubs, and the humid warm weather makes a great environment for growing anything green. Equally, your lawn may need to be fed, and soon you will need to be mowing every weekend, just to keep it manageable. Strawberries are still big at this time of the year and blueberries are coming. Visit the Whitesbog Village Blueberry Festival.
Foliage: At its glorious greenest, versus the rest of the year. A good time to cut leggy plants back to the bone, so they can recover before Fall arrives.
Weather: Much the same as June although perhaps a bit hotter and more humid, more frequently. Humidity particularly, doesn’t really abate, and thunder rain storms just add more moisture. OK, it’s not the tropics but it’s still way more humid than I personally like. Time to wear the hair in a ponytail every day, and hope that your air-con doesn’t break down. Average temperatures range from 30C down to a low of 18C.
Gardening and Plants: Still a great growing time, much like June. Blueberry picking is popular right now, into next month, as well. Peaches are another crowd pleaser that will be available over this month and next.
Foliage: As for June.
Weather: The last month of summer can be hotter or not, there is no way of predicting! Humidity continues although by the end of the month, as back-to-school approaches, the temperature can start to decrease, so that occasionally a light sweater or hoodie is necessary. Average temperatures range from 30C down to a low of 19C.
Gardening and Plants: Still a good growing time, although plants seem to lack the fresh look from early summer. Less variety available to plant but still a number of flower varieties. August is a good month for apples and many families visit farms to pick their own. By month end, clean out your garden of any remaining vegetables and fruit, and tidy up diseased or damaged plants.
Foliage: The foliage is starting to look less green and a little old. Some trees have started to change color early, although these are in the minority.
Back to the beginning of our cycle already…. For a full list of vegetables that can be planted throughout the year in New Jersey, visit the Old Farmer’s Almanac website. This website also contains a full list of flowers and shrubs that can be planted at various times.
Useful References for Annual Planting
- The List: Fruits and Vegetables from the aptly named Garden State
- New Jersey Crop Harvest Calendar.
- Old Farmers Almanac: a list of vegetables, fruit, herbs, flowers and houseplants with ‘how to’ gardening information.
- Fairs and Festivals in New Jersey: Visit fresh food festivals and other celebrations.
- A list of Farmer’s Markets in New Jersey: where you can get out and buy fresh produce directly from attending suppliers.
What suggestions can you add to the lists above for plantings, if any?