Mild winter weather could mean trouble for growers & gardeners

Mar 19, 2012

Western New York's mild winter has thrown the region's garden and growing season a sharp curve.  It has gardeners shaking their heads and commercial growers keeping their fingers crossed.

Those of us who've been around the block know the winter of 2011-2012 is one for the record books.  Snowfall in the 40 plus inch range and temperatures warm enough to keep the Great Lakes ice free.

John Farfaglia is an extension educator for Cornell Cooperative Extension in Niagara County.

"With the warm weather, we've been having things ahead of schedule," said Farfgalia. "we are getting calls from people tell us that their crocus and some of the other spring bulbs are blooming earlier than normal, and some of the shrubs and lawns are taking on a spring look," said Fargalia.

Spring arrives Wednesday. But before you grab your garden tools, master gardener Carol Anne Harlos offers some wisdom.

"If we suddenly get a cold snap, some plants will not recover well.  Some trees, once their buds expand...can not re-close those buds," said Harlos.

And should winter-like-weather return in April and May, certainly not out of the realm of possibility, that would be a big concern for Western New york commercial fruit growers.

"Fruit crops...there is a kind of a wait and see period.  Those trees will come into blossom and bloom a little later," said Farfaglia.

Harlos, a master gardener coordinator for the Erie County Cooperative Extension is warning home gardeners everywhere to resist the temptation to begin work in their garden beds.

"You look outside and you say it's spring. as a gardener, everything in me wants me to go outside, clean out my beds and take away the mulch, and that would be a really, really bad idea", said Harlos.  "The home gardener should keep away from their beds."

And there is another reason for concern, bus. 

"I always say to people who say, 'oh isn't this nice'... be careful what you wish for.I have a gut feeling it is going to  be a buggy year," said Harlos. "Keep off your beds."