Sunday, March 18, 2012

Will this Early Warm Weather Harm my Plants?

Seventy degrees on St. Patrick's Day?  Be it the luck of the Irish or El Nino, this has been one lovely winter--and  tisn't even officially Spring until next week! One morning we made the rounds of the garden with morning coffee in hand marveling at the green daffodil shoots already seven inches out of the ground.  By dinnertime there were bright yellow blooms hanging from those stems. 

It seems like the yard changes daily, grass is greening up, trees are budding and shrubs are begining to bloom.  Spring seems to have eerily arrived overnight in Southeast Michigan. 

While we all rejoice in the warm temperatures, it's easy to feel wary given our fickle climate here in the mitten.  Will the early appearance of shoots and buds hurt baby plants and budding shrubs should temperatures drop?

Early Daffodils
The answer is--not likely.  Should temps stay in the freezing range for an extended period of time there might be a bit of brown "freezer burn" on the edges of tender leaves, but the issue is purely cosmetic. 

Plants know when to exit dormancy based upon soil temperature and light exposure. Their wake up alarms are set by Mother Nature.  Soil temperature is already higher than usual due to the warm winter, so a dip on the thermometer should have no effect on the early risers in the garden.  Trees, for example,know when to bloom leaves based upon the cycle of light and darkness, so the warm temps have no effect.  the concept works in reverse in the Fall.

The only bad news is that marginally hardy weeds have survived with gusto, so it may be a good idea to spend a few of those warm moments outdoors getting ahead of the weeding. 

Warmer ground makes Spring bulb planting easier.  Remember the opposite rule--plant fall bloomers in Spring and vice versa.  So daffodils and tulips are only for admiring, not planting right now!

Hellebores have been blooming for a few weeks now, their soft colors and pale centers are unmatched this time of year.

So stop worrying, and enjoy the sunshine!