By Rick Dandes
The Washington Post
If you’re itching to start planting in your backyard garden today, don’t let this unusually warm weather fool you when it comes to deciding what to put in the ground, a Penn State agricultural expert warns.
“This is the ideal time to revitalize your lawn, prune shrubs and trees and plan your flower or vegetable garden,” said John Esslinger, an educator with the Penn State Cooperative Extension. “But you definitely have to consider that there might be a blast of cooler weather to come.”
Esslinger advises gardeners to put cold weather vegetables in the ground now.
“Spinach, cabbage, lettuce and radishes like cool weather,” he said. “In fact, if you wait too long, it might be harmful to those vegetables, which prefer cool rather than hot weather.”
Flower growers should stick with pansies this week.
“They are best able to handle any sudden cool air,” he said.
This is also a good time to be starting tomato transplants indoors for May. Tomato planting season is mid- to late-May, when the soil is warm and cold weather is past.
Now is not the time to plant annuals. This is also not the best time for setting perennials in the ground, Esslinger said. “Some years, early April is OK, but this year the air temperature and soil have been cooler than usual. Acclimatize the plants. Give them a few weeks.”
Despite temperatures in the 80s Tuesday and today, “It won’t last,” Esslinger said. “We expect to see a cool down by the weekend.”
According to the National Weather Service, temperatures will moderate to a more normal range in the 60s during the day by Friday and continuing into next week. Lows will be in the 40s.
Esslinger said he’s concerned about rainfall, too.
“We’re a few inches of rainfall short of our average, and I’d like to see some rain over the next few weeks,” he said.