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It's Groundhog Day, Will Punxsutawney Phil See His Shadow?

With the recent cold snap, then warm snap, then Thursday's snow and ice, the prospect of Punxsutawney Phil predicting six more weeks of winter on Saturday looks a bit drab.

Groundhog Day is on Saturday, Feb. 2 this year, and the recent Arctic temperatures are giving the day a bit more resonance than usual.

According to the myth, if a groundhog sees his shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter; if he does not, spring is right around the corner.

Last year, Pennsylvania's Punxsutawney Phil predicted six more weeks of winter while Staten Island Chuck called for an early spring.

Groundhog Day is celebrated every year on Feb. 2. On this day, a groundhog comes out of its burrow and checks for his shadow to determine how soon spring will arrive.

“People are excited to see Phil on Feb. 2, but within weeks, some homeowners will complain about groundhogs eating flowers and garden vegetables,” said Laura Simon, field director of Wildlife & Habitat Protection community programs for The HSUS.

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Groundhog Day as we know it in the U.S. started because the Pennsylvania Dutch farmers wanted to know if spring was coming early or not. That information helped them decide when they should plant seeds and half their hay.

At the same time, groundhogs – also known as woodchucks – hibernate from October through February and start breeding shortly thereafter. That means an abundance of groundhogs setting their sights on eating gardens, digging burrows and coming into conflict with their human neighbors.

Here are Some Tips for Protecting Gardens from Groundhogs this Groundhog Day:

  • Scare Them – To temporarily discourage frequent visits to your garden, place objects in the area that will reflect sunlight and continually move in the breeze, such as tethered Mylar party balloons, “animal scaring” balloons with faces and big eyes or dangling pieces of Mylar tape.
  • Exclude Them – Since groundhogs do not like to climb unstable fences, installing a wobbly 3 to 4 foot-high mesh barrier around a garden keeps them away permanently. The HSUS recommends using regular green garden fencing, which comes in 16 gauge, 4-foot-tall mesh rolls

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