ELIZABETHTOWN — Daffodils, having awoken from their slumber, are stretching out their sleepy arms in bloom, and tulips are cautiously peeking their heads above the warm ground. It’s spring, and those lulled by 80-degree days may be tempted to get a jump start on horticulture, but the local extension office has a word of warning.
“I don’t think it (winter) is over yet,” said Nancy Olsen, home horticulture specialist with the Bladen County Cooperative Extension. “Our average frost-free day is April 15, so we still have another month or so. This is just a warm spell.”
According to Olsen, the final frost could be seen as early as April 1 or as late as the end of April.
As winter makes its exit, it’s practically tiptoeing out the door. According to the National Weather Service, the final weeks of winter have brought six record highs to the Lumberton area, all within the span of nine days. Feb. 16 saw a record high of 82 degrees, followed by records of 80 degrees on Feb. 20-21, then record highs of 79 on Feb. 22-23, and a final record high of 83 degrees on Feb. 25.
The average temperature for the final full month of winter was 56.7 degrees, a full 9.9 degrees above normal.
The almost-summer-like temperatures had folks dusting off the lawn mowers earlier than usual, and home gardeners were faced wielding pruning shears to decapitate full and colorful blooms.
“People have been telling me they missed pruning this year, and they hate to cut their beautiful roses, but I’ve been telling them to go ahead and prune, because the frost is going to get them anyway,” Olsen commented.
She added, “If they’re already blooming, they’re just going to get long and lanky, and you’re going to have to prune them with flowers on them anyway, so you may as well go ahead and do it now.”
Olsen also cautioned against trying to get an early start on vegetable gardening, having witnessed the attempt recently.
“There will be people who will put tomatoes out now and try to grow them, but tomatoes just aren’t going to grow until it gets hot,” she explained.
“The only thing you should be planting is trees or even potted plants,” she added. “I wouldn’t be planting seeds or anything with bare roots.”
The gardening specialist speculated, with the blooming of red buds and dogwoods, plants in the area to be approximately 3-4 weeks ahead of normal schedule.
“If people need help with gardening or planting, please give me call, and I’ll be glad to help,” she remarked.
Olsen can be reached by calling 910-862-4591.
Chrysta Carroll can be reached by calling 910-862-4163 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.