Don’t be fooled by spring

Even though spring is here, cold weather isn't gone
Mar. 19, 2013 @ 06:12 PM

Don’t get spring fever quite yet.
Even though today is the first day of spring, cool temperatures — maybe even freezes — aren’t finished for the year. And even though last Saturday’s highs in the 70s caused gardeners to itch to start planting, it’s too early to put tender plants into cold soil.
The Piedmont is in the midst of a cold pattern that likely will continue through at least the first part of April, said Phil Badgett, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Raleigh.
“The clearest signal is that we have a real strong low-pressure cold trough over the eastern United States, and a lot of times in spring, systems that develop have a tendency to linger and be slow moving. So that’s one reason we’re locked into a pattern of 10-15 degrees below normal, which will remain below normal through April, possibly, with only one or two warm days between cold fronts,” Badgett said.
In addition, this weekend there may be snow in the mountains and possibly cold rain or a few flurries in the Piedmont.
A fairly new method for predicting weather trends is soil moisture, Badgett said. If March and April end up being wet, the Piedmont’s thick, clay soil, which holds moisture, is likely to be cooler into the spring and summer. Cooler soil combined with at least several more weeks of cool temperatures mean that budding and blooming of plants may be two-three weeks behind this year.
Staff at Price Nursery tries to save over-eager customers from planting too early by simply not getting in vegetables or flowering plants until later, said Pam Rogers, the annuals and perennials manager who calls herself “the flower lady.”
“Every year, people try to get things earlier than they need to,” Rogers said. “So we try and not rush the season by selling things that do not like cold soil and cold temperatures. This weekend is going down to a high of about 38. The last average frost is April 15, and last year we had a couple of frosts after that.”  
She advises planting only trees, shrubs and pansies, which like cold weather, this early.
“We like to make sure our gardeners are successful and happy, and nothing is more discouraging than buying things and have them die because it’s too early,” she said.

vknopfler@hpe.com / 888-3601