Spring Forward: Does Daylight Savings Time Impact Gardeners and Farmers?

Daylight Savings is upon us, technically at 2 a.m. on Sunday, March 10.

That means on Saturday, March 9, the masses who inhabit this great land, from coast to coast, silently or otherwise, devised a scheme to navigate this event.

The conservative lot among us, me included, will bet on the sure-fire way to seamlessly “not miss a beat” by turning our clocks ahead early on Saturday night, attempting to hit the pillow one hour early so as to awake at our normal rise and shine time.

We all know this is a tricky path since scientifically, it is impossible to put ourselves to sleep at will.

Timely tradition?

I had to look up the original intention of this ritual, begun in March of 1918. I always heard that it was for the farmers but I wasn’t quite sure because as a gardener, it seems backwards to me. Perhaps you feel the same.

Ok, say you are a farmer with livestock and fields to tend. Then, perhaps the March time change is beneficial to you because you can feed livestock, collect eggs and milk cows and goats in the dark, which will give you an extra hour of light in the evening just as you are trying to get your spring seeds in the ground.

Cranberry harvest | Vego Garden
Cranberry harvest

That extra hour will also be there for you in the fall just as you are trying to harvest the wheat or corn or soy in the “back forty.” I live in Massachusetts and my father was a cranberry grower. You can bet, we needed all the daylight hours we could get during harvest time.

We would have to wait until early September, up to mid-October, to pull all those gorgeous berries in, off the vine. In fact, standard operating procedure was to keep working far after the downing of the sun. The job was finished when the designated tract of land had been worked and was not determined by the sunset or the hands on Dad’s wristwatch.

Amazingly, we could pull a full dump truck into the massive truck bays at Ocean Spray, it seemed, at any hour of the night. I’m sure that was just an illusion and the lights were turned off at some reasonable hour. Then again, perhaps there was a third shift to keep those trucks rolling, especially the eighteen wheelers!

With farming in mind or not, the original intention of the time change was to save money on energy and make the most of available light.

Science says...

The truth is, it seems most people don’t like the clock change in the spring because they don’t just lose one hour. Science has shown that this change in time takes a significant toll on our bodies. Our Circadian rhythms are thrown all out of whack. Our sleeping brains can’t understand why the alarm clock is going off an hour early every morning for months!

In an article called “Daylight Saving Time Dangers: Deadly Crashes Spike, Studies Show,” author Jane Ulitskaya states that a study in “Current Biology” showed a 6% increase in fatal crashes in the early hours of the days following our time changes.

Separately, in 2005, states were given the chance to opt in or out of Daylight Savings. Nineteen states have established permanent, year-round Daylight Savings time. Hawaii and Arizona refuse to change their clocks at all.

Likewise, I don’t know anyone who embraces the November 3 time change in the fall. Then, folks are leaving the house in the dark and getting home in the dark.

This gardener says...

As a gardener, without livestock to tend to, I would rather keep my light in the morning! Yes, I am in a routine of waking at 6:30 a.m. I like to rise with the sun and do not prefer to rise in the dark. Of course, it is not just the lost hour of sleep but the prospect of walking out into colder temps to start my work, yeesh!

There is not much worse than feeling the icy cold water from the hose on my hands. My energy is already conditioned to be best in the morning hours. When I lose an hour of light, I can also depend on losing an hour of work, for some time, until my body can adjust.

Watering in the garden | Vego Garden
Watering in the garden

The plants we plant and nurture, feed and adore, all respond and function according to the rhythms of nature. Our gardens teach us many lessons. I can’t see an end to all the lessons.

We will do well to imitate our rooted friends, working with, not against nature and mitigate, as best we can, the consequences of changing the clocks! Therefore, I applaud Hawaii and Arizona. If I had a big farm with animals or had to tend to my garden only after an 8-hour shift of work, I would applaud the 19 states that have made Daylight Savings permanent.

Final thoughts

My conclusion is we should embrace Daylight Savings like Swifties embrace Tay-Tay or discard it like a broken hose nozzle. To maintain this insanity of springing forward and falling back is to mess with nature.

If our gardens teach us anything, they teach us that, messing with nature is never a good idea!


  • Maureen McCartney

    Great article and insight, I am also a novice Gardner and always learning to adapt.. but changing the clocks is a bit rough .. I’d prefer to keep the daylight savings as earlier is generally better for me also, falling back is always rougher on me as the darkness affects my mood. Keep writing I love your style.

  • Dorraine

    Why for the love of Pete can we not have a permanent Daylight Savings time across all 50 of the United States?! The poor school children I work with just drag that entire week. I realize this is a gardening feature, but our current and future gardeners need all of the shut-eye they can get, and so do their teachers.

  • Amy Mcphee

    I agree with more light in the mornings! It feels natural to wake up when the sun is saying Good Morning!
    I’m impressed with your ambition to grow such a large and varied garden. Just 55 blueberry bushes alone would be a lot.
    Thank you for your insights, a fun read.

  • Michael

    My son and I just built 7 garden beds and are beginners in gardening. We started the idea last year and had some success. We used what we learned last year and made some changes to try and be much more successful this year. We also live in Massachusetts. I did not think about daylight savings time and its impacts on us as well as our newly formed garden. I look forward, as a beginner in gardening, to reading and learning more. Thank you for sharing your insights with us.

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