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Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette
Jill Persinger and her daughter Abby, 4, check out the ornamental trees for sale at Menards on Illinois Road on Sunday.

Experts say don't rush to plant

Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette
Ron and Deanna Armstrong look for plants for a new flower garden at Menards on Illinois Road on Sunday.

Greenhouse owner Doug Hackbarth is in a unique position as far as business owners go.

Typically, he likes to see his plants fly off the shelves. But this spring, he's urging his costumers not to buy his garden plants.

At least yet.

"If they insist, I will sell them to them. But not unless I've told them it's too early," said Hackbarth, owner of Broadview Florists & Greenhouses on Winchester Road.

The unseasonably warm temperatures this spring have left many itching to get out in the garden and start planting. But not so fast, say gardening and weather experts.

The temperature could hover around 30 degrees tonight, which is typical for the season, doing damage to unprotected annuals and houseplants.

And the National Weather Service is predicting several freezes by the end of May.

This month will likely be the warmest March on record, according to Indiana meteorologist Nick Greenawalt. The high temperatures mean local greenhouses and yard supply stores have seen an unexpected surge in business.

"It's been a great season so far," said Mike Day, general manager at the Menards on Illinois Road.

"We're selling so much soil, you know people are planting. You just have to advise them of the risks."

If temperatures drop to around freezing, garden experts say people should move their potted plants indoors and try to cover other sensitive plants.

"Anything that's outside that is perennial is perfectly fine," Hackbarth said. "Frost is a definite problem for any houseplant or annual."

Hackbarth said cold crops, like cabbage and broccoli, are nothing to be concerned about. But he warned that fruit trees could be harmed in a freeze and should be covered if possible.

Hackbarth also recommends waiting at least a month before planting vegetables such as tomatoes or peppers outside.

The National Weather Service is predicting higher-than-average temperatures for the rest of the spring, but warns that another freeze is highly likely.

"We've never had an April where we've never had a freeze," Greenawalt said.

While temperatures will dip in the next few days, he expected a return to 70-degree weather by Wednesday.

Warm temperatures Sunday put Michelle Wadley and her mother, Phyllis Mace, in the mood to peruse the garden section at Menards.

She was on the lookout for shrubs and trees for her new house – the kind of plants experts said would do fine in a freeze.

"We always go by the rule of thumb that you don't plant anything until after Mother's Day," she said.

"But we're ready to get out there."

dhaynie@jg.net

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