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Groundhog Day

February 1, 2019
By JOYCE COMINGORE - Garden Club of Cape Coral , Cape Coral Daily Breeze


How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood? The age-old tongue-twister. The answer of course is, a woodchuck would chuck as much wood as a woodchuck could chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood.

Actually, the answer is none. They are a burrowing, tree-climbing rodent that chucks dirt.

A woodchuck is a Marmota monax, also known as groundpig, whistle pig, whistler, thickwood sod badger and groundhog. They whistle to warn the rest of their colony when danger is suspected.

Groundhog Day is upon us, Feb. 2, always the 2nd of February. It speaks to the triumph of spring over winter, birth over death. It's originally a Celtic festival, marking the cross-quarter day or midpoint of the season, because the sun is halfway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. The legend is, if a groundhog sees its shadow on this day, we'll have 6 more weeks of winter; if he doesn't, spring is just six more weeks away, because the dates of the equinox do not change. Their percentage of accuracy is 39 percent, but the fun is priceless.

Hedgehog Day came from Germany, and Germans settled in Pennsylvania. Originally, a bear brought forecasts to France and England. The Germans looked to a badger. Settling in Pennsylvania, they started Groundhog Day, substituting a groundhog for a hedgehog, which were more easily found in Pennsylvania. They say, his real name is "Punxsutawny Phil, Seer of Seers, Sage of Sages, Prognosticator of Prognosticators and Weather Prophet Extraordinary."

He isn't the only prognosticator around. 1. Chattanooga Chuck is in Tennessee, he's resided at the Tennessee Aquarium since 2010. 2. French Creek Freddie is in West Virginia, hosting for 40 years. 3. Buckeye Chuck is from Ohio, whose prognostications often miss the mark. He is from Marion, Ohio, and the state legislature designated him officially in 1979. 4. Essex Ed is from New Jersey's Turtleback Zoo. He also predicts the Super Bowl. 5. Jimmy the Ground Hog is from Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, where they have proclaimed themselves, Groundhog capitol of the World since 1948. 6. Woodstock Willie is from Illinois. Chuckles is found in Manchester, Connecticut; Pothole Pete in New York City; and Canada has an albino groundhog called Wiarton Willie.

The main habitat of groundhogs is Alaska, Canada and the central and eastern part of the United States.

They are tunnel diggers and eat vegetation, which makes them a pest to be rid of for many homeowners that want a lovely lawn.

There are no groundhogs in Florida, we have our own trials and tribulations with pests here. So we are free of that worry. Our problem at the moment is the weather. I have been freezing. Fortunately, plants are hardier than I am. Heaters, sweatpants and shirts, blankets are me right now. Cold weather means there are not many crops or plants growing now. Watch out for freezing rain when you drive northward. Freezes adversely affect our main industry, the citrus crop.

We should plant tropicals on the south and east side of our home, making the home a natural barrier.

You may need to cover and water plants ahead of a frost. Watering is essential. Water early in the day, it warms the soil and helps utilize moisture. The main killer is the wind that accompanies cold weather, drying up and killing the dry plants. So be sure they are watered.

Normally, we don't have to worry, but there come times when the cold weather overcomes us. We don't usually fear cold air reaching us, but when it does, be prepared to cover plants. Not with plastic, but a warm cloth, a light sheet doesn't cut it, or cardboard.

The next reminder is, no pruning until early March. Damaged leaves will bear the brunt of future cold damage and protect tender new shoots that may emerge. Cutting encourages new growth. Wait until all danger of frost has past. Also, do not fertilize yet. Fences or cold hardy shrubs on the north or northwest sides act as buffers against the cold winds. Fungus grows in damp plants that can't utilize the moisture without heat. February can be a cold month. Palms grow from their center bud at their tip, so a dose of systemic fungicide is helpful, applied in the crown.

My lazy attitude is survival of the fittest and hope for the best. So, place plants correctly - water in the morning and cross your fingers. A little prayer helps.

Thank a tree for its lifegiving powers. They take out the bad air, carbon, and give us oxygen.

Joyce Comingore is a Master Gardener, hibiscus enthusiast and member of the Garden Club of Cape Coral.



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