The Propaganda of the Four Season Chart

You know how those elementary-school season charts always show the four seasons divided into nice equal pie-slices? Usually the season-slices are accompanied by a seasonally appropriate deciduous tree: leaves turning color in fall, bare and snow-studded in winter, leaf budding and flowering in spring and in full green verdancy in summer.

The important part is that each season is the same length: 3 months, 13 weeks, one-quarter of the year, like so:

That’s nice in theory, but here’s how the seasonal breakdown in my neighborhood really looks:

Summer just left, and she’s been making for the door since August 22nd. She hung out for real for about 6 weeks. Typical. Don’t let the occasional warm day fool you, at this point Fall is calling the shots. Night-time temps and the sun’s intensity have dropped off so much that it’s all downhill to Halloween.

Fall likes to call the shots in Seattle. That’s why she drizzles on for nearly four months from September to December. Sometimes, if winter isn’t paying attention and misses her cue (Jan-Feb is such a small role, you understand, it’s easy to forget to show up), Fall will just do a direct hand-off to Spring in March and even long-time locals won’t be able to say when the Fall rains stopped and the Spring rains started.

Spring – wow – you’ve got to hand it to her, that girl is slow but she’s tenacious. She’s slow to wake up and slow to get moving but getting her to leave so Summer can come back is almost impossible. Average stay: 22 weeks, beginning in March and ending in mid July.

But that’s just my region. If you don’t live in the Maritime Northwest your seasonal breakdown probably looks different.

For example, I think Hawaii is about half hot-and-dry and about half warm-and-wet.

Tucson seems to have 4 months of Summer followed by 4 months of Blowtorch followed by four more months of summer. You sun-babies will have to forgive me, I come from the land of high-of-55-and-light-rain. 85 is freakin’ hot to me. Triple digits and I might as well be on Venus.

New Hampshire, somewhat surprisingly, and based exclusively on internet research, appears to be a textbook case of four distinct and equally-distributed seasons.

Here’s my proof. The average weather for Hanover, New Hampshire, from Weather.com:

Now that is a pretty weather curve.

My theory is that New Hampshire secretly controls all printing and publication of educational charts about the seasons.

This four-equal-seasons thing is propaganda put out by the New Hampshire Tourist Board to convince people to come to New Hampshire to enjoy those seasons that their home region cannot otherwise supply. Cause hey, guess who has all the seasons? Neh, neh, it’s New Hampshire! (Suck it up, Florida, you never had a chance.)

It’s a conspiracy, I tell you, a conspiracy.

Of course, the good gardeners in New Hampshire may try to convince you otherwise. They might point out that someplace dubbed “The Granite State” is not actually blessed with perfect growing soil. They might mention that average temperatures do not mean a lot in a place known for dramatic summer temperature swings. They might even try to convince you that, being tucked up in the far Northeast corner of the US, they have a tremendously short growing season.

Whatever. New Hampshire has perfect quadrant weather. Made-up charts don’t lie. The grass really is greener there. Well, until winter. Then it’s covered in snow because in New Hampshire men are men and Winter means Winter, damnit.

So, does anyone in New Hampshire want to grow my tomatoes for me next year? I hear you have perfect weather so it should be really easy for you.

What does your Seasonal Breakdown Chart look like? Long summer? No Summer? Do you have perfect four-quadrant weather where you garden or are your seasons a little skewed like mine?

Comments

  1. Florida (Orlando and south….northern Florida is different) is similar to Hawaii with a Wet/Dry season. It could also look like this June-October: hot, humid, rainy, mosquitoes. November-May: The best growing season ever.

  2. Being from New Hampshire, I have to laugh. The biggest problem we have with tomatoes is that it is often wet and cold at night so they often rot on the vine. Also the massive tomato bugs. But yeah, we do have a pretty awesome tomato season. This year our CSA gave us somewhere around 40 pounds of tomatoes in the last month. And my deck cherry tomatoes came out perfectly even though I forgot to water them any number of times.

    In terms of our actual seasons, we certainly have the Memorial day to Labor day summer as advertised on the calendar. It’s even often Summer June 21 to September 21, but spring is rarely consistently warm enough for planting until Memorial day. (Though I’ve since moved 60 miles down to Mass, and wow, we can start planting the middle of May!) It doesn’t generally snow until Thanksgiving, and generally the snow is totally gone by April 1st. (Though I’ve seen major snow storms in both October and April, and it’s been 85 in February!)

  3. I’d say in northern Maine, we definitely don’t have an equal summer to other seasons. I think our winter extends into the spring chunk and fall starts earlier than the calendar specifies.

    Spring: 11, Summer: 9, Fall: 15, Winter: 17

  4. heh… we get about 8 weeks of summer, and fall/winter/spring kind of meld together so there isn’t really a clear defining line between them. (Fall starts getting cold around NOW – freezing my butt off right now, winter starts anywhere from Halloween to Christmas, and lasts until the snow’s gone, which is sometimes March, sometimes May…)

    Canada’s fun that way. Suffice to say, this is the only place I’ve been where I can go out in July and still see snow leftover from winter – our city piles all the plowed snow in one place, and it’s quite the impressive little mountain by mid-February… it doesn’t finish melting until end of July or so.

    • I hear that! I’m in Wisconsin, so we start getting really freakin’ cold around October, usually there’s some sort of snow by Opening Gun weekend (the weekend before Thanksgiving here in WI – also known as Deer Camp time. Bang.), and it can hang around until April, like it did the winter my daughter was born in 2010. Talk about cabin fever!

      Spring really hits here around May, and sticks around for maybe 8 weeks, but usually more like 6 weeks. Summer usually tortures us (we go from -30 to 105 all in one year. Eff you Mother Nature, ya bitch) until August. September is still warm, but not the ungodly heat of July and August. Fall never seems to last long enough – I’d say summer is a good 10 or 11 weeks usually, and fall is only about 8. Winter, well…it’s Wisconsin. We wouldn’t be shocked if we had snow in June. ;)

  5. My brother in law lives in Anchorage Alaska and just got his first frost last night. Yikes!
    I’m in Southwest Colorado and summer and winter are longest and equal length. Spring and fall are small, delicious slices. But we have sun, crazy sun, all year round, which makes winter cold frames possible, and tomatoes possible and fabulous fruit possible.

  6. Living just outside Phoenix, I love the Tucson reference! We are entering our 3rd year living in AZ, and I think I finally adjusted somewhat because I didn’t dread summer quite so much this year. One thing I DO love about our seasons here is having two growing seasons, basically fall and spring which meld together a bit through our “winter.”

  7. My brother says we only have two seasons here – cold rain followed by warm rain. I believe Mark Twain said the nicest Winter he ever spent was a Summer in the Pacific Northwest.

  8. Here in the Western Cape of South Africa we get all four seasons, but summer, hot and dry, tends to steal the show. Autumn winter and spring blend indeterminately into each other and hog all the rain, leaving us gardeners to irrigate for at least six months of the year.

  9. Here in Las Vegas, we enjoyed a wonderful winter last year. It was on a Thursday, I think. Spring and fall are great, and they account for about 9 months of the year. Summers are nuts, summed up by the TV weather reporters calling for temps in the “One-Oh-Stupid” range, but that only lasts about 8 weeks. (Only?!?) We also have another season here, usually mid-Feb to mid-Mar, that some of us call “the Blow.” That’s when you need to stake your seedlings down because if you don’t, they’ll end up in someone else’s garden.

  10. I live in Fairbanks and got my first frost about a week ago. I used to live in Barrow, where it snowed every single month of the year; according to Organic Gardening, Barrow has 8 frost free days a year. The only thing I grew there was a tiny pumpkin in my living room window!

  11. Lady Banksia says:

    Pretty much spot on with the Tucson reference… Phoenix tends to run anywhere from 5-12 degrees warmer than Tucson on any given day. There is about a 2-3 week transition window from summer to winter – that’s pretty much Fall, but li’l Miss Winter often masquerades as Fall/Spring with moderate temps and much less intense sunshine – shorts on Thanksgiving is not uncommon – still gets a little brisk in January, though. Same goes for the Winter – Spring – Summer transition. There are a few weeks in there where spring peas will actually flower and fruit. Right now, its time for the cole crops to go in for my yard – broccoli, cauliflower, cabbages, beets, turnips, carrots, etc. They do fine – have had much success with them this part of the year.

  12. Fantastic! But, I’ll tell you- I lived in New Hampshire for a few years and the (non-native) running joke regarding seasons went a little something like this:

    New Hampshire’s four seasons= almost winter, winter, still winter and construction.

    Not sure which would be most conducive to tomato growing, but I’m sure there were a least a few nice days in there!

  13. Here in inland Southern Queensland, Australia, we have about 6 months of hot and wet, followed by 3 months of cold and wet and then 3 months of cold and dry (but getting warmer). I can grow tropical plants in the hot/wet season, but as soon as they get too cold, I move to temperate winter plants, which crap out as soon as the humidity hits again. I’m getting used to it…. I bought a small greenhouse to help my ginger and chilli plants survive through winter!

  14. I just moved to Olympia from central Oklahoma. Back home there’s a common joke when visitors complain about the weather. “Oklahoma has four distinct seasons: Tornado, Summer, Yeah – Still Summer, and Christmas.”

    What that actually breaks down to is about 8 weeks of thunder-filled spring from mid-March to mid-May, followed by 20 weeks hot, humid summer before the highs finally drop below 75 in October. About 8 weeks of “fall” precedes 16 weeks of winter. I’ve regularly seen storms drop 6 inches of ice and snow on the state in the middle of “spring” break!

  15. There you go again, stripping away my denial in one post! Up here in the convergent zone of the PNW, the 4 seasons of wet, truly dominate. My memory floats back to last year. While watching the weather report on king 5, I had to laugh once again at there inability to know what the heck goes on out here! There report? ” the snow had missed us” all the while I was watching it dump out of the sky, ending at 2.5 feet and staying for 2 weeks. So I stand at the edge of another grey mood swing and am still confused at what Nature let’s grow to maturity and what she wont. This year I got cantaloup, eggplant, bell peppers, and cucumbers, but no tomatoes. Last year, nothing but tomatoes! Our last dry spell has truly pushed me again, to wonder if this is the place I should stay, cause out four seasons of grey, can be a bit on the blah side! :)

  16. Do you have these stats for Northern Canada?? I’m in Fort McMurray, Alberta

  17. In northern Kansas we have about 26 weeks of winter and 26 weeks of summer. All the worst weather the world has to offer in one state! I might be exaggerating a little :-)

  18. Elizabeth F says:

    We have this. Fall is 2 month (S/O), then Winter starts with N/D/J/F/M (I remember trick or treating in the snow one year when I was little). Spring may or may not begin somewhere in April. The flowers will start coming up but the snow may still be coming down. Spring A/M. Summer is J/A. June may be more Spring, may be more Summer. But there is such a definite shut off here of Summer to Fall, just like a switch has been flipped.

  19. Ha ha! “Blowtorch” is a great description of an Arizona summer! I’d venture to say that we get a proper Autumn somewhere around New Years or so. We travel up to Flagstaff if we want to experience winter. :)

  20. We have four seasons, but the only difference within the halves (winter/spring; summer/fall) is the light. Otherwise, it’s wet/dry. And almost perfect, from a gardening stance. I really have no complaints.

  21. We’re in Colorado. We’re blessed with over 300 days of sunshine a year (some of those days are a little short for plants to actually grow though). We do truly get four seasons here but they are mixed up.

    The saying around here is that if you don’t like the weather, you should wait a couple hours. You can wake up to sunshine and go to bed in a blizzard or be snowed in for two days to shovel out 3 feet of accumulation but do your shoveling under sunny skies in a t shirt. Some summers we’ll get sunshine all morning then hail in the afternoon. This summer my son went biking when it was 103 degrees out and last winter he went sledding when it was 10 degrees out. It’s a little extreme and pretty unpredictable, which adds some extra excitement to gardening. But it’s all I’ve ever known so I get pretty irritable if we have the same weather for a couple days running.

  22. Heres mine:
    http://www.weather.com/weather/wxclimatology/monthly/graph/92102

    I’d say its pretty right on most of the time although it has been way hotter this summer on average. Or tomato (read everything) season is great. I think in San Diego you can pretty much grow anything anytime of year if you really tried. Can;t wait until my wife and I can buy a house with a big yard to start our own mini plantation. In our neighborhood its not unusual to see chickens hanging out at the park grazing for insects or full front yards turned into raised bed gardens.

  23. I’m from Tucson. That pretty much sums it up. However, I have lived in Arizona my whole life, so I tend to forget that it is “blowtorch” weather for a good part of the year. Summer is just summer to me. Seeing it described as that though really puts things into perspective. June through mid- September is really, really rough on a lot of plants. Things go dormant; they don’t want to grow or do much of anything. If they survive, they wake back up about now. I guess I should stop blaming myself for that, and instead, celebrate the courageous plants that actually thrive during the blowtorch portion of the year. Thanks for reminding us that not all places or seasons are created equal. We have to really embrace where we are at and work with, not against it.

    • Exactly! Embrace diversity. And if you are in Tucson, embrace anything that will grow big enough to give shade. :) The best glass of orange juice I’ve ever had, ever, in my entire life, was in Tucson. It was a life-changingly good glass of orange juice. We picked the oranges, walked 12 feet into the kitchen and juiced them. Amazing. In my yard I have Asian pears and Apples I can literally pick through my window but citrus is very exotic to me.

  24. Great topic. Perhaps school books were originally written in New England, and we have the idealized picture as a result? Here in the B.C. Southern Interior we do have 4 distinct seasons. But yearly variations mean that first snow can be anywhere between Halloween and just before Christmas, and snow-free can be anywhere from early March to mid April. The last few years we have seen a shifting of the seasons, like you have. It takes longer to warm up in spring. A greenhouse to give plants a head start is almost becoming a necessity.

  25. That’s hilarious! I’m in Portland so have pretty much the same pie chart as you. I’ve heard of endless Summer, but endless Spring never occurred to me. Maybe we northwesterners need new names to designate early, mid, and late Spring.

  26. The Tucson reference had me rolling. It took my by surprise and I almost snorted coffee up my nose.

    And spring. Yeah. That snot doesn’t know when to leave. As evidenced by this year. And summer was, like 3 weeks.

    But was a gorgeous three weeks it was.

  27. In Washington D.C., my favorite way to determine spring arrival is the blooming of the cherry blossom trees scattered all over NW D.C. and encircling the Jefferson Memorial. The Cherry Blossom festival is usually when the cherry blossoms peak, around March 30, although this year they peaked about a week early. Summer usually arrives around second week of June, and today is the second day that it actually felt a little chilly in the morning and at night. Rarely do we get a snowfall before Christmas, or a white St. Patrick’s Day. All around, it’s pretty cooperative.

  28. Sigh. That Seattle chart really brings home that I’m living in the wrong place (just north of you on Vancouver Island). I LOOOOVE summer. And we wait SOOOO long for it. And then 3 weeks later, in the first week of August, I go deep into mourning that summer is now over–the days shrink dramatically, and something changes in the light that signals its all downhill from here. But then September rolls around and it’s still beautiful, dry and warm, and I remind myself that fall is ok too. And you never hear me complaining about the daffodils and cherry blossoms at the end of February!

  29. Living in Alaska, I always laugh at the seasonal charts. Our year is 7 months of winter, one week of actual Spring (literally–from leaf bud to actual leaves takes about one week), four months of summer, and three weeks of autumn. We do have an unofficial fifth season, which is sort of the end of winter/almost spring time: Breakup. As in, the snow is breaking up and melting. Everyone hates it. When all you’re dreaming about is summer, to have the thaw-freeze-thaw cycle is like the state’s way of taunting us. For us gardeners it’s the ultimate tease. You can’t plant anything yet, but you’re dying to.
    And as for the “when to plant things in your area” charts, hahahaha!!!! There’s no such thing as “seasonal planting” around here. My peas and cabbage and carrots grow right along with my zucchinis and tomatoes.
    So, you know, be thankful if you’ve got more than one growing season.

  30. Aww yes, seasons. I have come to loath “traditional” planting charts.
    We’re about 45 miles inland in southern California. Our seasons look something like this:

    Dec-March: “Winter” (by which I mean we get semi-regular overnight frost, but rarely ever an actual freeze). This is also when it rains. Sometimes.
    April: Spring
    May: Summer peeks around the corner
    June: Springish Summer and often overcast (June Gloom is the preferred reference. I, however, *love* it.)
    July – Sept: mini-Blowtorch (September is perhaps, my very least favorite month. Pumpkins start showing up with all the promise of fall but it’s LIES. I long for fall, but no. 90-110* for days on end.)
    October: Fallish (averages in the 80*s)
    Nov: Fall

    I try to have a good attitude about all this. We have truly year-round growing. And citrus. And avocados. So I try to limit complaining. (But man do I long for some freaking rain!)
    Know what my favorite season is? Fall. Ain’t that a bitch.

  31. I visited Seattle and surrounding area (2600 miles on rental car in 9 days) in August.
    It is beautiful, and I’ve analyzed the weather patterns on the west side of the Cascades.
    After hiking 3 times, seeing Mt. Rainier up close, visiting Olympia Nat’l Park, seeing so much more – it finalized my decision to move there. I live in Texas. People are great, weather is not.

    It may not be perfect up there, but it IS awesome!

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