Everyone is anxious to get a head start on the garden, especially since we are having record high temperatures and sunshine that feeds our gardening addiction.
I wish I could predict the future, but unfortunately, to all those who ask if it's OK to start planting and do I think this weather will continue all the way to summer, I have no idea. Just like Accuweather, the Weather Channel, Weather Underground and the rest of the experts on the science of weather, I maybe can offer a prediction for the next five days, but I can't predict what will happen from now until our average frost date of May 20. The fact is, anything can happen.
This morning, as I looked at my hyacinth buds, still tightly clustered on the stalks, I remembered that there is almost always a light snow after they bloom. I can't resist taking yearly photos of snow dusting the pastel petals of these fragrant flowers that seem to scream spring.
And then there is onion snow. I'd never heard of onion snow until a former instructor at the OSU Trumbull County Extension Office adamantly advised the class not to even think that winter was over. ''We haven't had our onion snow,'' he said.
Onion snow, it turns out, is a regional expression that describes an early spring snow that hits after the onions have sprouted in the garden. Others say onion snow is an indication to gardeners that it's time to plant the onions. Whichever you prefer, we really haven't had an onion snow - yet.
According to Accuweather out of Cleveland, more than 1,200 record-high temperatures have been set over the past week across the U.S., and nearly 6,000 record highs have been recorded since the first of the year. There is no doubt we are having an early spring, but whether it will last or not is still up in the air.
If your garden is ready and the soil can be worked, I say go for it. Just be careful what you're planting. The warm temperatures aren't the judge of when I start planting. I let the soil tell me when the time is right, and at present, the soil is still too wet in my garden.
The rule of thumb that every gardener knows is to take a handful of garden soil and squeeze. Open your hand and if the soil clings together in a wet ball, leave the garden alone. If the soil crumbles like moist cake, it's time.
Also remember that not all gardens are created equal. In my vegetable garden, there is one part that is always the last to get planted. Water stays in that one-eighth section well into May and sometimes into June if the season has been particularly wet. The perennial gardens sit a little higher and they usually get a head start, even over the vegetables. It's all about location.
For the tenderest of plants, I would wait a bit before brushing away the mulch. A few years ago, a late hard frost that hit after several warm days and nights proved disastrous for many backyard gardens, including my own. That year, spring shrubs lost their buds and we lost an azalea with sentimental value because it came from the garden of a relative who is no longer with us. Even as the dead, bare trunk and stalks of the azalea stood alone in the garden and never again produced as much as a leaf, it was a long while before we could bring ourselves to remove it.
What you can do, however, is rake up the rest of last year's leaves, pull up those stubborn perennial weeds so they can't dig in deeper, cut down the ornamental grasses before the new growth begins, start those tomato and pepper seeds indoors, and if you're really anxious for spring flowers, trim the forsythia and pussy willow branches to bring inside for forcing.
If I had to guess, I would say spring is here, but don't hold me to that. It is Northeast Ohio, after all.