Spring is flowering early!

Spring is flowering all around us and we are seeing some crops flowering two or three weeks earlier than normal with the recent warm, mild weather. We have not only seen daffodils and crocus in bloom but even hyacinths, tulips and many other bulbs crops have bloomed or are blooming. Flowering shrubs are well into their spring flower show with forsythia, quince, spirea and many others already blossomed or in bloom. Fruit and flowering trees like peaches, apricots and plums are all at different stages of flower as are the wild sand plums across the prairie. Ornamental flowering trees like Bradford pears, dogwoods and some crabapples are also coloring the landscape with their annual display of flowers. It is amazing after all the ice damage to Bradford Pears to observe just how many are still here and how widely they are used in commercial landscapes and in home editions built in the last few decades. For all their structural problems in handling ice and winds, they are truly beautiful and impressive when in flower. We are seeing lots of other trees and shrubs budding out, some even starting to leaf out. We are at high risk of significant damage if we get another really hard freeze in the low twenties or below as the sap is running and the plant world is responding like it is spring. According to the calendar we have another four weeks of high risk of freeze. If we get a hard freeze now after several weeks of sunny warm weather without a freeze we will see damage. You may want to have some old sheets or blankets ready to cover shrubs or plants you are most concerned about if you see we are going to get a hard freeze. Gardeners always need to be weather aware. There are some commercial products like row cover, Hot Kaps or Wall O” Water pyramids that can help you protect important crops if we get a late freeze.

With the warm winter weather and most all crops responding early that makes the “deadline” to apply pre-emergent for crabgrass, stickers and other summer weed control come early as well. If you have not already applied your weed and feed or pre-emergent weed killer please put that at the top of your garden to-do list. The sooner you apply these products the more weeds they will control. Once the weed seeds have germinated these products will not work and you will need to use a post emergent weed killer or get busy hand pulling the weeds and stickers you do not want.

We are in the final planting stages for the cool season vegetable crops if you want to get your best results before the hot weather arrives this summer. You can purchase and plant cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce and many other green leafy vegetables. Plant onion sets or onion plants. The earlier you plant onions, the larger onion you can grow as they are day length sensitive and it is harder to grow large onions as the days get longer. May folks like to plant their Irish potatoes on or near March 17th, also known as St. Patrick’s Day which just sounds like the right time to plant something Irish.

It is still too early and too risky to plant annual color plants or warm season vegetables like tomatoes, sweet potatoes, peppers and eggplant but it is a great time to plant trees, shrubs and many perennials.

Get your gardens and decorative containers ready for the warm season crops but practice patience to increase your chances for success. If you see yourself as a riverboat gambler and think you can beat the historical weather patterns you can try your hand at early planting, just don’t plant more than you can afford to lose.

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