In my garden, Hellebores (Lenten Rose) and pulmonaria (lungwort) have peaked.
These flowers are not only a month ahead of schedule, but they seem to be moving along on fast-forward thanks to the record breaking warm temperatures we had a couple weeks ago.
In addition to the perennials, the flowering trees and shrubs are on a collision course with nature. I barely had time to bring some early branches for forced blooming before the same plants outside were already opening their petals. The forsythia is just about finished at the time it would have just been getting started and the tulip magnolia, while more magnificent this year than I remember, is already dropping its petals.
Even in Washington, D.C., the cherry blossoms are ahead of schedule. Fortunately, this is the 100th anniversary of the cherry blossom festival, and while it is usually celebrated for two weeks, this year the celebration spanned five weeks from March 20 to April 27. If you want to see the more than 2,000 cherry trees in bloom along the Tidal Basin, however, I wouldn't wait much longer or they will be gone.
Flowering trees aren't the only things happening earlier this year. If you're like most homeowners, you've probably already mowed at least once. Grasses are going to seed earlier and trees are budding. Glancing at the treetops, we can already see a tinge of green.
The last few days have shown that weather in northeast Ohio can be like riding a roller coaster. One week we can be in the 70s and 80s and the next week we're bringing those indoor plants back inside and flipping the switch on the thermostat from air to heat in the same day.
Should you start those vegetable seeds earlier? I suggest patience.
Everyone likes to get a jump on the season. The competition in some neighborhoods to get the first ripe tomato or pick the first batch of beans can be fierce, but planting too early can set you back just as if you waited too long.
Seeds should be planted in small containers, such as peat pots or pellets that are barely two inches in diameter, or in planting trays with two inch by one inch cells. These are great little containers for starting seeds because they encourage the plant's roots not to spread too far just yet. But even if seeds are planted six to eight weeks before they are to go outside, some transplanting will be necessary as the seedlings outgrow their containers. It's easy to forget that growing plants will need a larger space when all we have to start with are two or three narrow trays. If they aren't transplanted as they grow, by the time they are ready to move to the garden, their growth may have suspended, and it will take a couple weeks to get them going again.
In addition to the need for transplanting, seeds that are started to early will suffer if they don't get enough light or if the temperature ranges are too great. In my house, the temperatures can dip by as much as 10 to 15 degrees at night because we keep the furnace very low while we're bundled up beneath comforters.
Also, unless the seedlings are given artificial light, the light that comes through our windows is not enough to produce strong, healthy plants. Plants that have been raised in low light conditions have thin, spindly stems, which also can set them back once they are moved outdoors.
Pay attention to the instructions on the seed packets for the best advice on when to start seeds. This information is the result of several years of experimentation and takes into consideration how long each variety of plant needs to germinate. Different plants have different requirements.
It's difficult to predict the weather conditions even when winter has been mild and record breaking March temperatures indicate an early spring. That doesn't mean April won't bring snowy days and hard frosts.