Well did Punxsutawney Phil see his shadow this morning? It appears that he did not in Pennsylvania, the home of the legendary groundhog, but what about here in Oklahoma? Legend has it that if he sees his shadow, we’re in for 6 more weeks of winter. We’ve really not had that much of a winter here in Oklahoma anyway, and it’s been even in the 70’s recently, but who knows what February may bring. So whether you believe the local weather forecasters or the local groundhog, just know that for both, it’s really just a crap shoot at this point in time.
So what’s the difference between groundhogs and the gophers and moles we seem to have so much trouble with in Oklahoma lawns? They are all rodents, but members of different families. Groundhogs are in the marmot family, along with squirrels and chipmunks. They are larger then gophers, averaging about 20″ long and 12-15 pounds. They have furry tails (much cuter) compared to the rat-like tails of gophers. Groundhogs are often referred to as Woodchucks also (how much wood does a Woodchuck chuck), and are one of the few animals that do actually hibernate during the winter.
Goundhog Day and the legend of Punxsutawney Phil started in the 1800’s with the early German immigrants in Pennsylvania. It’s all fun, but trying to forecast the weather especially here in Oklahoma can be tough even with all the technologies we have now. We just assume that the weather typically all works out in the wash, and that even with warm and cold spells, the soil temperature will always be in the mid–50’s by late March to early April. Soil temperatures stay more consistent than air, and generally go up slowly from late winter into spring.
That’s important for turfgrass managers such as us, who are responsible to have the spring pre-emergent applied and into the soil before the first flush of crabgrass later in spring. That’s why the LawnAmerica guys and gals are out working away now in order to insure this is done well before weeds start popping up. The newer products we use such as Barricade don’t really break down in the soil much with cool soil temperatures, so it’s just fine to apply Barricade now, rather than waiting until the last minute and possibly missing the deadline to prevent weed seed germination.