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Fair Weather warning from the Columbus Dispatch


 

Fair-weather warning for gardeners

Summerlike temperatures may lure you to get your hands in the soil, greenhouse workers say, but your impatiens could come back to haunt you.

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BROOKE LAVALLEY | DISPATCH

George Hauswirth, an Upper Arlington resident who is a certified master gardener, works on flower beds outside of the Chadwick Arboretum and Learning Gardens at Ohio State University. The early signs of spring were on full display.

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IT’S TOO EARLY

Despite the unusually warm weather, experts caution against doing certain gardening tasks so early in the year.

 

Don’t:

• Mulch. Mulching early will trap spring rain in the soil,

potentially damaging plant roots.

• Plant tomatoes, peppers, beans or other warm-weather crops.

• Plant petunias, impatiens or annuals beyond pansies.

• Prune shrubs and trees already in bloom.

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By  Jim Weiker

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Central Ohio’s record-breaking warmth has heated up gardeners and greenhouse traffic.

But what to do with all those hyacinths?

“We’ve got over 100 pots of hyacinths, and they’re supposed to be for Easter,” said Jerry Killilea Sr., the owner of deMonye’s Greenhouse in Columbus. “We can’t hold them. They’re blooming like crazy.”

Killilea’s solution: Set them on skids at the greenhouse entrance and sell them for $6.99 a pot.

As the Columbus area braces for its third consecutive 80-degree day — yesterday’s 85 was the record for a day in March — greenhouses are enjoying a booming spring — but at some costs.

“The weather has been fantastic for our business. Everyone is excited,” said Shelli Berry-McDaniel, a horticulturist at Wilson’s Garden Center in Newark. “We’ve seen a big influx of traffic.”

Baker’s Acres received so many calls from eager customers that the Alexandria greenhouse decided to open this Saturday, two weeks ahead of schedule.

“We probably could have opened last Saturday,” acknowledged owner Chris Baker. “The phone’s been ringing off the hook.”

With grass ready for mowing and forsythias, magnolias, Callery pears and even some lilacs in bloom, homeowners are eager to dive into yard work.

“This weather has us all itching to get our hands in the dirt,” said Betty Leffingwell of the Northwest Side, who was checking out the offerings at deMonye’s yesterday.

In some cases, gardeners are too eager.

Greenhouses say customers already are asking for tomato plants and annual flowers such as petunias and impatiens.

“People need to keep in mind our frost(-free) date still isn’t until the middle of May, even though we’ve had so many warm days,” Berry-McDaniel said. “It’s still too early to plant tomatoes and peppers.”

In addition to the likelihood of a killing frost, plants could drown if the soil is too wet.

Experts say cold-weather vegetables such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, lettuce, potatoes and onions can be planted safely now, and perhaps even asparagus, which normally wouldn’t go in for another week or two, but Berry-McDaniel strongly advised against warm-weather vegetables.

The experts also recommend against that favorite pastime of central Ohio homeowners — mulching.

“It’s too early since we will still have our heavy rains and mulch will hold too much moisture,” Berry-McDaniel said. “Instead, it’s a great time to do any sort of bed or prep work.”

Cheryl Vaia, who runs GreenThumb Gardens, which oversees gardens on the East Side and Bexley area, has had to tell some of her customers that it’s just too early to plant many annuals.

“Pansies are fine now, but I wouldn’t try something like impatiens,” she said. “It’s just a tough dancing act this spring.”

Still, Killilea himself tempted fate at deMonye’s this week by planting six flats of Wave petunias next to the greenhouse, three weeks before he ordinarily would.

“You’re crazy,” said a joking Vaia. “I wouldn’t do that now.”

Responded Killilea: “I’ve got a gut feeling we’re going to be OK.”

jweiker@dispatch.com

 

Posted: 
Thu, 03/22/2012