With temperatures fluctuating from the high 60s down into the 40s, what's a gardener to do?
According to one local expert, when the temperatures change so dramatically in such a short period there's little to do but take a wait-and-see approach.
"Bulbs may pop up above ground when the temperature goes up like it had done," said Chris Parker, the owner of Evergreen Lawn and Landscape in Martinez. "We do need the temps to hang around a few weeks and not just a few days."
Parker said that although some bulbs might sprout, there is no reason to fret.
"They can usually handle freezing temperatures without harm," he said, adding that the flowers are only injured if the temperature changes are too abrupt after they have come up or if the stems get broken.
"Most shrubbery in our area can handle the temperature changes, as well," he said.
Parker said fruit-bearing plants and trees are another issue altogether.
"Yes, our beloved peaches, as well as blueberries, strawberries, apples, pears and so many more, including flowering ornamentals, will certainly suffer irreversible damage with a cold snap if they jump out of their dormant stage because of a false spring," he said.
Though there's little that gardeners can do to protect their plants and bulbs in uncertain weather, Parker said there are several proactive measures that can be taken now to ensure a healthier growing season come spring.
"For the most part, we are a little too early to get our lawns out of winter yet," he said. "You're pretty much going to wait on that until the spring green up comes around, unless you put out rye grass for a winter lawn. That being said, there are other preparations you can do to get ready for spring."
Parker said it's important to know whether your lawn has been kept clean. In other words, have all of the winter leaves been kept off of the lawn in order to allow the sunlight down to the grass when it is ready to emerge?
"There is an under-used product that should be getting put out now and that's pre-emergence," he said. "Pre-emergence is a product that prevents seed germination in your lawn. It's relatively inexpensive and will certainly help save money in battling weeds by having to use fewer chemicals on your lawn."
Parker said there are definitely seeds in the lawn from either the homeowner's weeds last fall or winds that have transported them to the lawn. Animals can also bring seeds into the yard.
Homeowners also should be preparing for aeration. Though it's too early to aerate the lawn yet, Parker suggests deciding whether to do it yourself, use a machine or hire a professional to do the job. He also suggests beginning to take soil samples to prepare for fertilization in mid-March.
"This is truly the proper way to recognize what your lawn needs versus just putting out a generic fertilizer from a big-box store," he said.
Though the weather might be wreaking havoc with the garden, there's not much that can be done at this point beyond planning now for a healthy growing season in the spring.
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.